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in 2011 with funding from 
Brigham Young University 

-^-vOLl 2 







No. 23 South Ninth Stkeet. 
188 2. 

Copyright i88i 

All rights reserved 





One's-Self I Sing o 

As I Ponder'd in Silence . . . .*.*.'.' o 

In Cabin'd Ships at Sea *.*.'. lo 

To Foreign Lands * . ' . * ii 

To A Historian '.'.*.' ir 

To Thee Old Cause . . . * . .'.'.'.* u 

Eidolons . . * . ' . ' i-> 

For Him I Sing . . . .'.'.*.*.*.* il 

When I Read the Book . . . .*.*.'.*. il 

Beginning My Studies *.'.*.' il 

Beginners .... ' ' ' * ic 

> To The States. . . .'.*.*.*.*.*.* iq 

On Journeys through The States. *.*.*.'.*. ic 

To A Certain Cantatrice * , * j5 

1 Me Imperturbe *.*.*.'. i6 

^ Savantism '.'.'.* " i6 

* The Ship Starting . . . .'.*.*.*.*. i6 

I Hear America Singing ' . * . ' 17 

What Place is Besieged? *.*.*. 17 

Still though the One I Sing . . .*.*.*.' 17 

Shut not Your Doors *.'.*. 17 

Poets to Come ,0 

To You *.'.'.'.'. 18 

Thou Reader ' ' ' * t^ 

;C^— ^^ 

^ r Starting from Paumanok ig 

#' V^ong of Myself *.'.*.*.' 29 


To THE Garden the World ^q 

From Pent-up Aching Rivers . . .*.'.*.' 70 

I Sing the Body Electric . . . .*.*.*. 81 

A Woman Waits for Me . . . .*.*.*.' SS 

Spontaneous Me . . . . . .*.*.*.* 8q 

One Hour to Madness and Joy .*.'.'.'.*.' qi 

Out of the Rolling Ocean the Crowd *.*.*.'. o-^ 

Ages and Ages Returning at Intervals . . * * ' q^ 

We Two, How Long We were Fool'd . . ' * 0^ 

Hymen ! O Hymenee ! ' ; * ii 

1 AM He that Aches with Love . . ' . ' ' * q\ 

Native Moments * . ' . " 04 

Once I Pass'd through a Populous City *.*.*.'. 94 

I Heard You Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ . * . * 94 

Facing West from California's Shores ... oc 

As Adam Early in the Morning ••••'* 95 



In Paths Untrodden 95 

Scented Herbage of My Breast 96 

Whoever You are Holding Me Now in Hand ... 97 

For You O Democracy 99 

These I Singing in Spring 99 

Not Heaving from my Ribb'd Breast Only . . . 100 

Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances . . . . ioi 

The Base of All Metaphysics ici 

Recorders Ages Hence 102 

When I Heard at the Close of the Day . . . 102 

Are You the New Person Drawn toward Me?. . . 103 

Roots and Leaves Themselves Alone .... 103 

Not Heat Flames up and Consumes 104 

Trickle Drops 104 

City of Orgies 105 

Behold This Swarthy Face 105 

I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing . ." . . 105 

To A Stranger ' 106 

This Moment Yearning and Thoughtful .... 106 

I Hear It was Charged against Me 107 

The Prairie-Grass Dividing 107 

When I Peruse the Conquer'd Fame .... 107 

We Two Boys together Clinging 108 

A Promise to California 108 

Here the Frailest Leaves of Me 108 

No Labor-Saving Machine 108 

A Glimpse 109 

A Leaf for Hand in Hand 109 

Earth My Likeness 109 

I Dream'd in a Dream 109 

What Think You I Take My Pen in Hand? . . .110 

To THE East and to the West no 

Sometimes with One I Love no 

To A Western Boy no 

Fast-Anchor'd Eternal O Love 11 

Among the Multitude 11 

O You WHOM I Often and Silently Come . . . .11 

That Shadow My Likeness 11 

Full of Life now 11 

Salut au Monde! 112 

Song of the Open Road . . 120 

[Crossing Brooklyn Ferry . 129 

^ong of the Answerer 134 

Our Old Feuillage 138 

A Song of Joys 142 

Song of the Broad-Axe 148 

Song of the Exposition . 157 

Song of the Redwood-Tree 165 

A Song for Occupations 169 

A Song of the Rolling Earth 176 

Youth, Day, Old Age, and Night 180 


Song of the Universal 181 

Pioneers ! O Pioneers ! 183 

To You 186 



France the i8th Year of These States .... i88 

Myself and Mine ~ 189 

Year of Meteors (1859-60) 190 

With Antecedents 191 

A Broadway Pageant 193 


/^UT OF THE Cradle Endlessly Rocking .... 196 

^s I Erb'd with the Ocean of Life 202 

Tears 204 

To THE Man-of- War-Bird ....... 204 

Aboard at a Ship's Helm 205 

On THE Beach at Night 205 

The World Below the Brine 206 

On the Beach at Night Alone 207 

Song for All Seas, All Ships 207 

Patroling Barnegat 208 

After the Sea-Ship 209 


A Boston Ballad — 1854 209 

Europe the 72D and 73D Years of These States . .211 

A Hand-Mirror 213 

Gods 213- 

Germs 214 

Thoughts . .......... 214 

When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer . . . 214 

Perfections 214 

Me! O Life! 215 

To A President 215 

1 Sit and Look Out 215 

To Rich Givers 216 

The Dalliance of the Eagles 216 

Roaming in Thought 216 

A Farm Picture . . 216 

A Child's Amaze 217 

The Runner 217 

Beautiful Women 217 

Mother and Babe 217 

Thought 217 

Visor'd 217 

Thought 217 

Gliding o'er All 218 

Hast Never Come to Thee an Hour 218 

Thought 218 

To Old Age 218 

Locations and Times 218 

^' Offerings 218 

^ To Identify the i6th, 17TH or i8th Presidentiad . . 218 


First O Songs for a Prelude 219 

Eighteen Sixty-One 221 

Beat! Beat! Drums! ... 222 

From Paumanok Starting I Fly like a Bird . . . 222 

Song of the Banner at Daybreak 223 

Rise O Days from Your Fathomless Deeps . . . 228 




Virginia — the West 230 

City of Ships 230 

The Centenarian's Story 231 

Cavalry Crossing a Ford 235 

Bivouac on a Mountain Side 235 

An Army Corps on the March 236 

By the Bivouac's Fitful Flame 236 

Come Up from the Fields Father 236 

Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night . . 238 

A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest ..... 239 

A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim . 240 

As Toilsome I Wander'd Virginia's Woods . . . 240 

Not the Pilot . 241 

Year that Trembled and Reel'd Beneath Me . . .241 

The Wound-Dresser 241 

Long, too Long America 244 

Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun 244 

Dirge for Two Veterans 246 

Over the Carnage Rose Prophetic a Voice . . . 247 

I Saw Old General at Bay 247 

The Artilleryman's Vision 248 

Ethiopia Saluting the Colors 249 

Not Youth Pertains to Me 249 

Race of Veterans 250 

World Take Good Notice 250 

O Tan-Faced Prairie-Boy 250 

Look Down Fair Moon 250 

Reconciliation . . » 250 

How Solemn as One by One 251 

As I Lay with My Head in Your Lap Camerado . . 251 

Delicate Cluster 252 

To A Certain Civilian 252 

Lo, Victress on the Peaks 252 

Spirit whose Work is Done 253 

Adieu to a Soldier . . - 253 

Turn O Libertad 254 

To the Leaven'd Soil They Trod 254 


When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd . . . \ ^^^ 

O Captain, My Captain 262 

Hush'd be the Camps To-day 263 

This Dust was Once tpie Man 263 

By Blue Ontario's Shore 264 

Reversals 276 


As Consequent 277 

The Return of the PIeroes 278 

There was a Child Went Forth 282 

Old Ireland 284 

The City Dead-House 284 

This Compost 285 

To A Foil'd European Revolutionaire 287 

Unnamed Lands 288 

Song of Prudence 289 

Contents, ' 7 


The Singer in the Prison 292 

Warble for Lilac-Time 293 

Outlines for a Tomb 294 

Out from Behind This Mask 296 

VocALisM 297 

To Him That was Crucified 298 

You Felons on Trial in Courts 298 

Laws for Creations 299 

To A Common Prostitute 299 

I WAS Looking a Long While 300 

Thought 300 

Miracles 301 

Sparkles From the Wheel 301 

To A Pupil 302 

Unfolded Out of the Folds 302 

What am I After All 303 

KosMos 303 

Others may Praise What They Like 304 

Who Learns My Lesson Complete 304 

Tests 305 

The Torch 305 

O Star of France (1870-71) 306 

The Ox-Tamer 307 

An Old Man's Thought of School 308 

Wandering at Morn 308 

Italian Music in Dakota 309 

With All Thy Gifts . c 309 

My Picture-Gallery 310 

The Prairie States 310 

Proud Music of the Storm 310 

Passage to India 315 

Prayer of Columbus . . • 323 

The Sleepers 325 

Transpositions 332 

To Think of Time n^^-i^ 


Barest Thou Now O Soul 338 

Whispers of Heavenly Death 338 

Chanting the Square Deific 339 

Of Him I Love Day and Night 340 

' Yet, Yet, Ye Downcast Hours 341 

As IF A Phantom Caress'd Me 341 

Assurances 342 

Quicksand Years 342 

That Music Always Round Me 343 

What Ship Puzzled at Sea 343 

A Noiseless Patient Spider 343 

O Living Always, Always Dying 344 

To One Shortly to Die 344 

Night oi:^ the Prairies 344 

Thought 345 

The Last Invocation 346 

As I Watch'd the Ploughman Ploughing .... 346 

Pensive and Faltering 346 

8 Contents. 


Thou Mother with Thy Equal Brood ..... 346 

A Paumanok Picture 3^1 


Thou Orb Aloft Full-Dazzling 3^2 

Faces -^53 

The Mystic Trumpeter 3^6 

To A Locomotive in Winter 3^8 

O Magnet-South 3^c) 

Mannahatta 360 

All is Truth 361 

A Riddle Song 362 

Excelsior 363 

Ah Poverties, Wincings, and Sulky Retreats . . 364 

Thoughts 364 

Mediums 364 

Weave in, My Hardy Life 365 

Spain, 1873-74 365 

By Broad Potomac's Shore 366 

From Far Dakota's Canons (June 25, 1876) . . . 366 

Old War-Dreams 367 

Thick-Sprinkled Bunting 367 

What Best I See in Thee 368 

Spirit That Form'd This Scene 368 

As I Walk These Broad Majestic Days .... 369 

A Clear Midnight 369 


As the Time Draws Nigh 370 

Years of the Modern 370 

Ashes of Soldiers 371 

Thoughts 373 

Song at Sunset y]\ 

As AT Thy Portals Also Death 376 

My Legacy i;]6 

Pensive on Her Dead Gazing y]'] 

Camps of Green 377 

The Sobbing of the Bells 378 

As They Draw to a Close 379 

Joy, Shipmate, Joy 379 

The Untold Want 379 

Portals 379 

These Carols 379 

Now Finale to the Shore 380 

So Long ! 380 



One's-Self I sing, a simple separate person, 

Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse. 

Of physiology from top to toe I sing, 

Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse, I 

say the Form complete is worthier far, 
The Female equally with the Male I sing. 

Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power. 
Cheerful, for freest action form'd under the laws divine, 
The Modern Man I sing. 


As I ponder'd in silence. 

Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long, 

A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect, 

Terrible in beauty, age, and power, 

The genius of poets of old lands. 

As to me directing like flame its eyes. 

With finger pointing to many immortal songs. 

And menacing voice. What singest thou ? it said, 

Know'st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards ? 

And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles, 

The making of perfect soldiers. 

Be it so, then I answer'd, 

/ too haughty Shade also sing war, and a longer and greater one 

than any, 
Waged in my book with varying fortune, with flight, advance and 

retreat, victory deferred and wavering, 


10 Leaves of Grass. 

( Yet me thinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last,) the field 

the world, 
For life and death, for the Body aiid for the eternal Soul, 
Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles, 
I above all promote brave soldiers. 


In cabin'd ships at sea, 

The boundless blue on every side expanding, 

With whistling winds and music of the waves, the large imperious 

Or some lone bark buoy'd on the dense marine. 
Where joyous full of faith, spreading white sails. 
She cleaves the ether mid the sparkle and the foam of day, or 

under many a star at night. 
By sailors young and old haply will I, a reminiscence of the land, 

be read. 
In full rapport at last. 

Heir are our thoughts, voyagers^ thoughts, 

He7'e not the land,fir7?i land, alone appears, may then by them be 

The sky overarches here, we feel the undulating deck beneath our 

We feel the long pulsation, ebb and flow of endless motion, 
The tones of unseen mystery, the vague and vast suggestions of the 

briny world, the liquid flowing syllables, 
The perfume, the faint creaking of the cordage, the melancholy 

The boundless vista and the horizon far and dim air all here. 
And this is ocean's poem. 

Then falter not O book, fulfil your destiny, 
You not a reminiscence of the land alone. 
You too as a lone bark cleaving the ether, purpos'd I know not 

whither, yet ever full of faith. 
Consort to every ship that sails, sail you ! 
Bear forth to them folded my love, (dear mariners, for you I fold 

it here in every leaf;) 
Speed on my book ! spread your white sails my little bark athwart 

the imperious waves. 
Chant on, sail on, bear o'er the boundless blue from me to every 

This song for mariners and all their ships. 

Inscriptions. ' 1 1 


I HEARD that you ask'd for something to prove this puzzle the New 

And to define America, her athletic Democracy, 
Therefore I send you my poems that you behold in them what you 



You who celebrate bygones. 

Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races, the Hfe 

that has exhibited itself. 
Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates, 

rulers and priests, 
I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself 

in his own rights, 
Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself, (the 

great pride of man in himself,) 
Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be, 
I project the history of the future. 

To thee old cause ! 

Thou peerless, passionate, good cause, 
Thou stern, remorseless, sweet idea. 
Deathless throughout the ages, races, lands. 
After a strange sad war, great war for thee, 
(I think all war through time was really fought, and ever will be 

really fought, for thee,) 
These chants for thee, the eternal march of thee. 

(A war O soldiers not for itself alone. 

Far, far more stood silently waiting behind, now to advance in 
this book.) 

Thou orb of many orbs ! 

Thou seething principle ! thou well-kept, latent germ ! thou centre ! 

Around the idea of thee the war revolving. 

With all its angry and vehement play of causes, 

(With vast results to come for thrice a thousand years,) 

These recitatives for thee, — my book and the war are one, 

Merged in its spirit I and mine, as the contest hinged on thee, 

As a wheel on its axis turns, this book unwitting to itself. 

Around the idea of thee. 

12 Leaves of Grass, 


I MET a seer, 
Passing the hues and objects of the world, 
The fields of art and learning, pleasure, sense, 

To glean eidolons. 

Put in thy chants said he. 
No more the puzzling hour nor day, nor segments, parts, put in, 
Put first before the rest as light for all and entrance-song of all, 

That of eidolons. 

Ever the dim beginning, 
Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle. 
Ever the summit and the merge at last, (to surely start again,) 

Eidolons ! eid61ons ! 

Ever the mutable. 
Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering. 
Ever the ateliers, the factories divine, 

Issuing eid61ons. 

Lo, I or you. 
Or woman, man, or state, known or unknown, 
We seeming soHd wealth, strength, beauty build, 

But really build eidolons. 

The ostent evanescent. 
The substance of an artist's mood or savan's studies long. 
Or warrior's, martyr's, hero's toils, 

To fashion his eidolon. 

Of every human life, 
(The units gather'd, posted, not a thought, emotion, deed, left out,) 
The whole or large or small summ'd, added up, 

In its eidolon. 

The old, old urge. 
Based on the ancient pinnacles, lo, newer, higher pinnacles. 
From science and the modern still impell'd. 

The old, old urge, eid61ons. 

The present now and here, 
America's busy, teeming, intricate whirl. 
Of aggregate and segregate for only thence releasing, 

To-day's eidolons. 

Inscriptions. 13 

These with the past, 
Of vanish'd lands, of all the reigns of kings across the sea, 
Old conquerors, old campaigns, old sailors' voyages, 

Joining eid61ons. 

Densities, growth, facades. 
Strata of mountains, soils, rocks, giant trees, 
Far-born, far-dying, living long, to leave, 

Eidolons everlasting. 

Exalte, rapt, ecstatic. 
The visible but their womb of birth. 
Of orbic tendencies to shape and shape and shape. 

The mighty earth-eidolon. 

All space, all time, 
(The stars, the terrible perturbations of the suns, 
Swelling, collapsing, ending, serving their longer, shorter use,) 

Fiird with eid61ons only. 

The noiseless myriads. 
The infinite oceans where the rivers empty. 
The separate countless free identities, like eyesighc, 

The true realities, eid61ons. 

Not this the world, 
Nor these the universes, they the universes. 
Purport and end, ever the permanent life of life, 

Eid61ons, eid61ons. 

Beyond thy lectures learn'd professor. 
Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observei; keen, beyond all 

Beyond the doctor's surgery, anatomy, beyond the chemist with 
his chemistry. 
The entities of entities, eid61ons. 

Unfix'd yet fix'd. 
Ever shall be, ever have been and are. 
Sweeping the present to the infinite future, 

Eid61ons, eid61ons, eidolons. 

The prophet and the bard. 
Shall yet maintain themselves, in higher stages yet, 
Shall mediate to the Modern, to Democracy, interpret yet to them, 

God and eid61ons. 

14 Leaves of Grass. 

And thee my soul, 
Joys, ceaseless exercises, exaltations, 
Thy yearning amply fed at last, prepared to meet, 

Thy mates, eidolons. 

Thy body permanent. 
The body lurking there within thy body. 
The only purport of the form thou art, the real I myself, 

An image, an eidolon. 

Thy very songs not in thy songs. 
No special strains to sing, none for itself. 
But from the whole resulting, rising at last and floating, 

A round full-orb'd eid61on. 

For him I sing, 
I raise the present on the past, 

(As some perennial tree out of its roots, the present on the past,) 
With time and space I him dilate and fuse the immortal laws, 
To make himself by them the law unto himself. 


When I read the book, the biography famous, 

And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man's life? 

And so will some one when I am dead and gone write my hfe ? 

(As if any man really knew aught of my life. 

Why even I myself I often think know little or nothing of my real 

Only a few hints, a few diffused faint clews and indirections 
I seek for my own use to trace out here.) 


Beginning my studies the first step pleas'd me so much, 

The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion, 

The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love. 

The first step I say awed me and pleas'd me so much, 

I have hardly gone and hardly wish'd to go any farther. 

But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs. 

Ins CRIP TioNS. 1 5 


How they are provided for upon the earth, (appearing at inter- 

How dear and dreadful they are to the earth, 

How they inure to themselves as much as to any — what a paradox 
appears their age, 

How people respond to them, yet know them not. 

How there is something relentless in their fate all times. 

How all times mischoose the objects of their adulation and re- 

And how the same inexorable price must still be paid for the same 
great purchase. 


To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist 

much, obey little, 
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved, 
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of thi^ earth, ever after- 
ward resumes its liberty. ^., j ^=^ 


On journeys through the States we start, 

(Ay through the world, urged by these songs, 

Sailing henceforth to every land, to every sea,) 

We willing learners of all, teachers of all, and lovers of all. 

We have watch'd the seasons dispensing themselves and passing 

And have said. Why should not a man or woman do as much as 

the seasons, and effuse as much? 

We dwell a while in every city and town. 

We pass through Kanada, the North-east, the vast valley of the 
Mississippi, and the Southern States, 

W^e confer on equal terms with each of the States, 

We make trial of ourselves and invite men and women to hear, 

We say to ourselves. Remember, fear not, be candid, promulge the 
body and the soul. 

Dwell a while and pass on, be copious, temperate, chaste, mag- 

And what you effuse may then return as the seasons return. 

And may be just as much as the seasons. 

1 6 Leaves of Grass. 


Here, take this gift, 

I was. reserving it for some hero, speaker, or general. 

One who should serve the good old cause, the great idea, the prog- 
ress and freedom of the race. 

Some brave confronter of despots, some daring rebel ; 

But I see that what I was reserving belongs to you just as much as 
to any. 


Me imperturbe, standing at ease in Nature, 

Master of all or mistress of all, aplomb in the midst of irrational 

Imbued as they, passive, receptive, silent as they. 

Finding my occupation, poverty, notoriety, foibles, crimes, less im- 
portant than I thought. 

Me toward the Mexican sea, or in the Mannahatta or the Tennes- 
see, or far north or inland, 

A river man, or a man of the woods or of any farm-Hfe of these 
States or of the coast, or the lakes or Kanada, 

Me wherever my hfe is Hved, O to be self-balanced for contingen- 

To confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs, as 
the trees and animals do. 


Thither as I look I see each result and glory retracing itself and 

nestling close, always obligated. 
Thither hours, months, years — thither trades, compacts, estabUsh- 

ments, even the most minute. 
Thither every-day life, speech, utensils, politics, persons, estates ; 
Thither we also, I with my leaves and songs, trustful, admirant, 
As a father to his father going takes his children along with him. 


Lo, the unbounded sea, 

On its breast a ship starting, spreading all sails, carrying even her 

The pennant is flying aloft as she speeds she speeds so stately — 

below emulous waves press forward. 
They surround the ship with shining curving motions and foam. 

Inscriptions. 1/ 


I HEAR America singing, the varied carols I hear, 

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be bHthe 
and strong, 

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, 

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off 

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deck- 
hand singing on the steamboat deck. 

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing 
as he stands. 

The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morn- 
ing, or at noon intermission or at sundown. 

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, 
or of the girl sewing or washing. 

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else. 

The day what belongs to the day — at night the party of young 
fellows, robust, friendly. 

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs. 


What place is besieged, and vainly tries to raise the siege ? 
Lo, I send to that place a commander, swift, brave, immortal, 
And with him horse and foot, and parks of artillery. 
And artillery-men, the deadliest that ever fired gun. 


Still though the one I sing, 

(One, yet of contradictions made,) I dedicate to Nationality, 
I leave in him revolt, (O latent right of insurrection ! O quench- 
less, indispensable fire ! ) 


Shut not your doors to me proud libraries, 

For that which was lacking on all your well-fill'd shelves, yet 

needed most, I bring. 
Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made. 
The words of my book nothing, the drift of it every thing, 
A book separate, not link'd with the rest nor felt by the intellect, 
But you ye untold latencies will thrill to every page. 

1 8 Leaves of Grass. 


Poets to come ! orators, singers, musicians to come ! 
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for, 
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than 

before known. 
Arouse ! for you must justify me. 

I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future, 
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the 

I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a 

casual look upon you and then averts his face, 
Leaving it to you to prove and define it, 
Expecting the main things from you. 


Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why 

should you not speak to me ? 
And why should I not speak to you ? 


Thou reader throbbest life and pride and love the same as I, 
Therefore for thee the following chants. 


Starting from fish-shape Paumanok where I was born. 

Well-begotten, and rais'd by a perfect mother. 

After roaming many lands, lover of populous pavements, 

Dweller in Mannahatta my city, or on southern savannas. 

Or a soldier camp'd or carrying my knapsack and gun, or a miner 

in California, 
Or rude in my home in Dakota's woods, my diet meat, my drink 

from the spring, 
Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep recess. 
Far from the clank of crowds intervals passing rapt and happy, 

Starting from Paumanok, 19 

Aware of the fresh free giver the flowing Missouri, aware of mighty 

Aware of the buffalo herds grazing the plains, the hirsute and 

strong-breasted bull, 
Of earth, rocks, Fifth-month flowers experienced, stars, rain, snow, 

my amaze. 
Having studied the mocking-bird's tones and the flight of the 

And heard at dusk the unrivall'd one, the hermit thrush from the 

Solitary, singing in the West, I strike up for a New World. 

Victory, union, faith, identity, time. 

The indissoluble compacts, riches, mystery. 

Eternal progress, the kosmos, and the modern reports. 

This then is life. 

Here is what has come to the surface after so many throes and 

How curious ! how real ! 

Underfoot the divine soil, overhead the sun. 

See revolving the globe. 

The ancestor-continents away group'd together. 
The present and future continents north and south, with the 
isthmus between. 

See, vast trackless spaces. 
As in a dream they change, they swiftly fill. 
Countless masses debouch upon them. 

They are now cover'd with the foremost people, arts, institutions, 

See, projected through time, 
For me an audience interminable. 

With firm and regular step they wend, they never stop, 

Successions of men, Americanos, a hundred milhons. 

One generation playing its part and passing on, 

Another generation playing its part and passing on in its turn, 

With faces turn'd sideways or backward towards me to Hsten, 

With eyes retrospective towards me. 

20 Leaves of Grass. 

Americanos ! conquerors ! marches humanitarian ! 
Foremost ! century marches ! Libertad ! masses ! 
For you a programme of chants. 

Chants of the prairies, 

Chants of the long-running Mississippi, and down to the Mexican 

Chants of Ohio, Indiana, IlHnois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, 

Chants going forth from the centre from Kansas, and thence equi- 

Shooting in pulses of fire ceaseless to vivify all. 

Take my leaves America, take them South and take them North, 
Make welcome for them everywhere, for they are your own off- 
Surround them East and West, for they would surround you. 
And you precedents, connect lovingly with them, for they connect 
lovingly with you. 

I conn'd old times, 

I sat studying at the feet of the great masters. 

Now if eligible O that the great masters might return and study me. 

In the name of these States shall I scorn the antique ? 
Why these are the children of the antique to justify it. 


Dead poets, philosophs, priests, 

Martyrs, artists, inventors, governments long since, 

Language -shapers on other shores. 

Nations once powerful, now reduced, withdrawn, or desolate, 

I dare not proceed till I respectfully credit what you have left 

wafted hither, 
I have perused it, own it is admirable, (moving awhile among it,) 
Think nothing can ever be greater, nothing can ever deserve more 

than it deserves, 
Regarding it all intently a long while, then dismissing it, 
I stand in my place with my own day here. 

Here lands female and male. 

Here the heir-ship and heiress-ship of the world, hete the flame of 

Starting from Paumanok, 21 

Here spirituality the translatress, the openly-avow'd, 
The ever-tending, the finale of visible forms, 
The satisfier, after due long-waiting now advancing, 
Yes here comes my mistress the soul. 


The soul. 

Forever and forever — longer than soil is brown and solid — longer 
than water ebbs and flows. 

I will make the poems of materials, for I think they are to be the 

most spiritual poems, 
And I will make the poems of my body and of mortality. 
For I think I shall then supply myself with the poems of my soul 

and of immortality. 

I will make a song for these States that no one State may under 
any circumstances be subjected to another State, 

And I will make a song that there shall be comity by day and by 
night between all the States, and between any two of them. 

And I will make a song for the ears of the President, full of weap- 
ons with menacing points. 

And behind the weapons countless dissatisfied faces ; 

And a song make I of the One form'd out of all, 

The fang'd and glittering One whose head is over all. 

Resolute warlike One including and over all, 

(However high the head of any else that head is over all.) 

I will acknowledge contemporary lands, 

I will trail the whole geography of the globe and salute courte- 
ously every city large and small, 

And employments ! I will put in my poems that with you is hero- 
ism upon land and sea. 

And I will report all heroism from an American point of view. 

I will sing the song of companionship, 
I will show what alone must finally compact these, 
I believe these are to found their own ideal of manly love, indi- 
cating it in me, 
I will therefore let flame from me the burning fires that were 

threatening to consume me, 
I will lift what has too long kept down those smouldering fires, 
I will give them complete abandonment, 
I will write the evangel-poem of comrades and of love, 
For who but I should understand love with all its sorrow and joy ? 
And who but I should be the poet of comrades ? 

22 Leaves of Grass. 

I am the credulous man of qualities, ages, races, 
I advance from the people in their own spirit, 
Here is what sings unrestricted faith. 

Omnes ! omnes ! let others ignore what they may, 

I make the poem of evil also, I commemorate that part also, 

I am myself just as much evil as good, and my nation is — and I 
say there is in fact no evil, 

(Or if there is I say it is just as important to you, to the land or 
to me, as any thing else.) 


I too, following many and follow'd by many, inaugurate a religion, 
I descend into the arena, 

(It may be I am destin'd to utter the loudest cries there, the win- 
ner's pealing shouts. 

Who knows ? they may rise from me yet, and soar above every thing.) 

Each is not for its own sake, 

I say the whole earth and all the stars in the sky are for religion's 

I say no man has ever yet been half devout enough, 
None has ever yet adored or worship'd half enough. 
None has begun to think how divine he himself is, and how cer- 
tain the future is. 

I say that the real and permanent grandeur of these States must 

be their rehgion, 
Otherwise there is no real and permanent grandeur ; 
(Nor character nor life worthy the name without religion, 
Nor land nor man or woman without rehgion.) 

What are you doing young man? 

Are you so earnest, so given up to literature, science, art, amours? 

These ostensible reahties, politics, points? 

Your ambition or business whatever it may be ? 

It is well — against such I say not a word, I am their poet also, 
But behold ! such swiftly subside, burnt up for religion's sake. 
For not all matter is fuel to heat, impalpable flame, the essential 

life of the earth. 
Any more than such are to rehgion. 

Starting from Paumanok. 23 


What do you seek so pensive and silent ? 
What do you need camerado ? 
Dear son do you think it is love ? 

Listen dear son — listen x\merica, daughter or son, 

It is a painful thing to love a man or woman to excess, and yet it 
satisfies, it is great. 

But there is something else very great, it makes the whole coin- 

It, magnificent, beyond materials, with continuous hands sweeps 
and provides for all. 


Know you, solely to drop in the earth the germs of a greater 

The following chants each for its kind I sing. 

My comrade ! 

For you to share with me two greatnesses, and a third one rising 

inclusive and more resplendent. 
The greatness of Love and Democracy, and the greatness of ReH- 


Melange mine own, the unseen and the seen. 

Mysterious ocean where the streams empty. 

Prophetic spirit of materials shifting and flickering around me. 

Living beings, identities now doubtless near us in the air that we 

know not of. 
Contact daily and hourly that will not release me, 
These selecting, these in hints demanded of me. 

Not he with a daily kiss onward from childhood kissing me. 
Has winded and twisted around me that which holds me to him, 
Any more than I am held to the heavens and all the spiritual 

After what they have done to me, suggesting themes. 

such themes — equalities ! O divine average ! 

Warblings under the sun, usher'd as now, or at noon, or set- 

Strains musical flowing through ages, now reaching hither, 

1 take to your reckless and composite chords, add to them, and 

cheerfully pass them forward. 

24 Leaves of Grass. 

As I have walked in Alabama my morning walk, 
I have seen where the she-bird the mocking-bird sat on her nest 
in the briers hatching her brood. 

I have seen the he-bird also, 

I have paus'd to hear him near at hand inflating his throat and 
joyfully singing. 

And while I paus'd it came to me that what he really sang for was 

not there only, 
Nor for his mate nor himself only, nor all sent back by the echoes. 
But subtle, clandestine, away beyond, 
A charge transmitted and gift occult for those being born. 

Democracy ! near at hand to you a throat is now inflating itself 
and joyfully singing. 

Ma femme ! for the brood beyond us and of us. 
For those who belong here and those to come, 
I exultant to be ready for them will now shake out carols stronger 
and haughtier than have ever yet been heard upon earth. 

I will make the songs of passion to give them their way. 
And your songs outlaw'd offenders, for I scan you with kindred 
eyes, and carry you with me the same as any. 

I will make the true poem of riches. 

To earn for the body and the mind whatever adheres and goes 

forward and is not dropt by death ; 
I will efl"use egotism and show it underlying all, and I will be the 

bard of personality, 
And I will show of male and female that either is but the equal 

of the other. 
And sexual organs and acts ! do you concentrate in me, for I am 

determin'd to tell you with courageous clear voice to prove 

you illustrious. 
And I will show that there is no imperfection in the present, and 

can be none in the future, 
And I will show that whatever happens to anybody it may be 

turn'd to beautiful results, 
And I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful than 


Starting from Paumanok. 2$ 

And I will thread a thread through my poems that time and events 

are compact, 
And that all the things of the universe are perfect miracles, each 

as profound as any. 

I will not make poems with reference to parts, 

But I will make poems, songs, thoughts, with reference to ensemble, 

And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with reference to 

all days. 
And I will not make a poem nor the least part of a poem but has 

reference to the soul. 
Because having look'd at the objects of the universe, I find there 

is no one nor any particle of one but has reference to the 



Was somebody asking to see the soul ? 

See, your own shape and countenance, persons, substances, beasts, 
the trees, the running rivers, the rocks and sands. 

All hold spiritual joys and afterwards loosen them ; 
How can the real body ever die and be buried ? 

Of your real body and any man's or woman's real body, 

Item for item it will elude the hands of the corpse-cleaners and 

pass to fitting spheres, 
Carrying what has accrued to it from the moment of birth to the 

moment of death. 

Not the types set up by the printer return their impression, the 

meaning, the main concern. 
Any more than a man's substance and life or a woman's substance 

and life return in the body and the soul. 
Indifferently before death and after death. 

Behold, the body includes and is the meaning, the main concern, 

and includes and is the soul ; 
Whoever you are, how superb and how divine is your body, or any 

part of it ! 


Whoever you are, to you endless announcements 1 

Daughter of the lands did you wait for your poet? 

Did you wait for one with a flowing niouth and indicative hand ? 

26 Leaves of GjRass. 

Toward the male of the States, and toward the female of the States, 
Exulting words, words to Democracy's lands. 

Interli./k'd, food-yielding lands ! 

Land of coal and iron ! land of gold ! land of cotton, sugar, rice ! 

Land of wheat, beef, pork ! land of wool and hemp ! land of the 

apple and the grape ! 
Land of the pastoral plains, the grass-fields of the world ! land of 

those sweet-air'd interminable plateaus ! 
Land of the herd, the garden, the healthy house of adobie ! 
Lands where the north-west Columbia winds, and where the south- 
west Colorado winds ! 
Land of the eastern Chesapeake ! land of the Delaware ! 
Land of Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan ! 
Land of the Old Thirteen ! Massachusetts land ! land of Vermont 

and Connecticut ! 
Land of the ocean shores ! land of sierras and peaks ! 
Land of boatmen and sailors ! fishermen's land ! 
Inextricable lands ! the clutch'd together ! the passionate ones ! 
The side by side ! the elder and younger brothers ! the bony- 

hmb'd ! 
The great women's land ! the feminine ! the experienced sisters 

and the inexperienced sisters ! 
Far breath'd land ! Arctic braced ! Mexican breez'd ! the diverse ! 

the compact ! 
The Pennsylvanian ! the Virginian ! the double Carolinian ! 

all and each well-loved by me ! my intrepid nations ! O I at 

any rate include you all with perfect love ! 

1 cannot be discharged from you ! not from one any sooner than 

another ! 
O death ! O for all that, I am yet of you unseen this hour with 

irrepressible love, 
Walking New England, a friend, a traveller, 
Splashing my bare feet in the edge of the summer ripples on Pau- 

manok's sands. 
Crossing the prairies, dwelHng again in Chicago, dwelling in every 

Observing shows, births, improvements, structures, arts, 
Listening to orators and oratresses in public halls. 
Of and through the States as during life, each man and woman 

my neighbor. 
The Louisianian, the Georgian, as near to me, and I as near to 

him and her. 
The Mississippian and Arkansian yet with me, and I yet with any 

of them, 

Starting from Paumanok. 27 

Yet upon the plains west of the spinal river, yet in my house of 

Yet returning eastward, yet in the Seaside State or in Maryland, 

Yet Kanadian cheerily braving the winter, the snow and ice wel- 
come to me. 

Yet a true son either of Maine or of the Granite State, or the 
Narragansett Bay State, or the Empire State, 

Yet sailing to other shores to annex the same, yet welcoming every 
new brother, 

Hereby applying these leaves to the new ones from the hour they 
unite with the old ones. 

Coming among the new ones myself to be their companion and 
equal, coming personally to you now, 

Enjoining you to acts, characters, spectacles, with me. 

With me with firm holding, yet haste, haste on. 

For your life adhere to me, 

(I may have to be persuaded many times before I consent to give 

myself really to you, but what of that ? 
Must not Nature be persuaded many times ?) 

No dainty dolce affettuoso I, 

Bearded, sun-burnt, gray-neck'd, forbidding, I have arrived. 
To be wrestled with as I pass for the solid prizes of the universe. 
For such I afford whoever can persevere to win them. 


On my way a moment I pause. 

Here for you ! and here for America ! 

Still the present I raise aloft, still the future of the States I 

harbinge glad and sublime, 
And for the past I pronounce what the air holds of the red 


The red aborigines. 

Leaving natural breaths, sounds of rain and winds, calls as of birds 
and animals in the woods, syllabled to us for names, 

Okonee, Koosa, Ottawa, Monongahela, Sauk, Natchez, Chatta- 
hoochee, Kaqueta, Oronoco, 

Wabash, Miami, Saginaw, Chippewa, Oshkosh, Walla- Walla, 

Leaving such to the States they melt, they depart, charging the 
water and the land with names. 

28 Leaves of Grass. 


Expanding and swift, henceforth, 

Elements, breeds, adjustments, turbulent, quick and audacious, 

A world primal again, vistas of glory incessant and branching, 

A new race dominating previous ones and grander far, with new 

New politics, new literatures and religions, new inventions and arts. 

These, my voice announcing — I will sleep no more but arise, 
You oceans that have been calm within me ! how I feel you, fathom- 
less, stirring, preparing unprecedented waves and storms. 


See, steamers steaming through my poems. 

See, in my poems immigrants continually coming and landing, 

See, in arriere, the wigwam, the trail, the hunter's hut, the flat-boat, 

the maize-leaf, the claim, the rude fence, and the backwoods 

See, on the one side the Western Sea and on the other the Eastern 

Sea, how they advance and retreat upon my poems as upon 

their own shores, 
See, pastures and forests in my poems — see, animals wild and 

tame — see, beyond the Kaw, countless herds of buffalo 

feeding on short curly grass. 
See, in my poems, cities, solid, vast, inland, with paved streets, 

with iron and stone edifices, ceaseless vehicles, and com- 
See, the many-cylinder'd steam printing-press — see, the electric 

telegraph stretching across the continent. 
See, through Atlantica's depths pulses American Europe reaching, 

pulses of Europe duly return'd. 
See, the strong and quick locomotive as it departs, panting, blowing 

the steam-whistle. 
See, ploughmen ploughing farms — see, miners digging mines — 

see, the numberless factories. 
See, mechanics busy at their benches with tools — see from among 

them superior judges, philosophs, Presidents, emerge, drest 

in working dresses. 
See, lounging through the shops and fields of the States, me well- 

belov'd, close-held by day and night, 
Hear the loud echoes of my songs there — read the hints come at 


O camerado close ! O you and me at last, and us two only. 


Song of Myself. 29 

O a word to clear one's path ahead endlessly ! 

O something ecstatic and undemonstrable ! O music wild ! 

O now I triumph — and you shall also ; 

O hand in hand — O wholesome pleasure — O one more desirer 

and lover ! 
O to haste firm holding — to haste, haste on with me. 


I CELEBRATE mysclf, and sing myself, 
And what I assume you shall assume. 
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. 

I loafe and invite my soul, 

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass. 

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this 

Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their 

parents the same, 
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin, 
Hoping to cease not till death. 

Creeds and schools in abeyance. 

Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten, 
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard, 
Nature without check with original energy. 

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded 

with perfumes, 
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it. 
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it. 

The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, 

it is odorless. 
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it, 
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and 

I am mad for it to be in contact with me. 

30 Leaves of Grass. 

The smoke of my own breath, 

Echoes, ripples, buzz'd whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and 

My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the pass- 
ing of blood and air through my lungs. 
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and 

dark-color'd sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn. 
The sound of the belch'd words of my voice loos'd to the eddies 

of the wind, 
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms. 
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs 

xThe delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields 

and hill-sides. 
The feehng of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from 

bed and meeting the sun. 

Have you reckon'd a thousand acres much? have you reckoned 

the earth much? 
Have you practis'd so long to learn to read? 
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems ? 

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin 

of all poems. 
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions 

of suns left,) 
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look 

through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in 

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, 
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self. 

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the begin- 
ning and the end. 
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end. 

There was never any more inception than there is now, 
Nor any more youth or age than there is now. 
And will never be any more perfection than there is now, 
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now. 

Urge and urge and urge. 

Always the procreant urge of the world. 

Song of Myself. 31 

Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and 

increase, always sex, 
Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life. 

To elaborate is no avail, learn'd and unlearn'd feel that it is so. 

Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well entretied, 

braced in the beams, 
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical, 
I and this mystery here we stand. 

Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not 
my soul. 

Lack one lacks both, and the unseen is proved by the seen, 
Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn. 

Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age, 
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they 
discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself. 

Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any man 

hearty and clean, 
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be 

less familiar than the rest. 

I am satisfied — I see, dance, laugh, sing ; 

As the hugging and loving bed-fellow sleeps at my side through 

the night, and withdraws at the peep of the day with 

stealthy tread. 
Leaving me baskets cover'd with white towels swelling the house 

with their plenty. 
Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization and scream at my 

That they turn from gazing after and down the road, 
And forthwith cipher and show to me a cent. 
Exactly the value of one and exactly the value of two, and which 

is ahead ? 


Trippers and askers surround me. 

People I meet, the effect upon me of my early Hfe or the ward 

and city I hve in, or the nation. 
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and 


32 Leaves of Grass. 

My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues. 

The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love. 

The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss or 

lack of money, or depressions or exaltations. 
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news, 

the fitful events ; 
These come to me days and nights and go from me again, 
But they are not the Me myself. 

Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am, 
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary, 
Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain 

Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next, 
Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it. 

Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with 

linguists and contenders, 
I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait. 

I beheve in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to you. 
And you must not be abased to the other. 

Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat. 

Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not 

even the best, 
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice. 

I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning. 
How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn'd over 

upon me, 
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your 

tongue to my bare-stript heart. 
And reach'd till you felt my beard, and reach'd till you held my 


Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that 

pass all the argument of the earth. 
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own, 
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own. 
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the 

women my sisters and lovers. 
And that a kelson of the creation is love. 
And Hmitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields, 

Song of Myself. 33 

And brown ants in the little wells beneath them, 
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap'd stones, elder, mullein 
and poke-weed. 

A child said What is the grass ? fetching it to me with full hands ; 
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any 
more than he. 

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green 
stuff woven. 

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, 
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt. 
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may 
see and remark, and say Whose ? 

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the 

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic. 

And it means. Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones, 
Growing among black folks as among white, 

Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I 
receive them the same. 

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves. 

Tenderly will I use you curling grass. 

It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men, 

It may be if I had known them I would have loved them. 

It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon 

out of their mothers' laps. 
And here you are the mothers' laps. 

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers, 

Darker than the colorless beards of old men. 

Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths. 

I perceive after all so many uttering tongues, 

And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for 

1 wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and 


34 Leaves of Grass. 

And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken 
soon out of their laps. 

What do you think has become of the young and old men ? 
And what do you think has become of the women and chil- 
dren ? 

They are alive and well somewhere, 

The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, 

And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the 

end to arrest it. 
And ceas'd the moment life appear'd. 

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, 

And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier. 

Has any one supposed it lucky to be born? 

I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I 
know it. 

I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-w^ash'd babe, 

and am not contain'd between my hat and boots, 
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike and every one good, 
The earth good and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good. 

I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth, 

I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and 

fathomless as myself, 
(They do not know how immortal, but I know.) 

Every kind for itself and its own, for me mine male and female. 

For me those that have been boys and that love women, 

For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be 

For me the sweet-heart and the old maid, for me mothers and the 

mothers of mothers. 
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears, 
For me children and the begetters of children. 

Undrape ! you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded, 
I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no. 
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be 
shaken away. 

Song of Myself. 35 

The little one sleeps in its cradle, 

I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently brush away flies 
with my hand. 

The youngster and the red-faced girl turn aside up the bushy hill, 
I peeringly view them from the top. 

The suicide sprawls on the bloody floor of the bedroom, 
I witness the corpse with its dabbled hair, I note where the pistol 
has fallen. 

The blab of the pave, tires of carts, sluff of boot-soles, talk of the 

The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the 

clank of the shod horses on the granite floor, 
The snow-sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of snow-balls, 
The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of rous'd mobs. 
The flap of the curtain'd litter, a sick man inside borne to the 

The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows and fall, 
The excited crowd, the policeman with his star quickly working 

his passage to the centre of the crowd. 
The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes. 
What groans of over-fed or half-starv'd who fall sunstruck or in 

What exclamations of women taken suddenly who hurry home and 

give birth to babes. 
What Hving and buried speech is always vibrating here, what howls 

restrain'd by decorum. 
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers made, acceptances, 

rejections with convex lips, 
I mind them or the show or resonance of them — I come and I 



The big doors of the country barn stand open and ready. 
The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn wagon, 
The clear light plays on the brown gray and green intertinged, 
The armfuls are pack'd to the sagging mow. 

I am there, I help, I came stretch'd atop of the load, 

I felt its soft jolts, one leg rechned on the other, 

I jump from the cross-beams and seize the clover and timothy, 

And roll head over heels and tangle my hair full of wisps. 

36 Leaves of Grass, 


Alone far in the wilds and mountains I hunt, 
Wandering amazed at my own lightness and glee, 
In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night, 
Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-kiil'd game, 
Falling asleep on the gather'd leaves with my dog and gun by my 

The Yankee clipper is under her sky-sails, she cuts the sparkle and 

My eyes settle the land, I bend at her prow or shout joyously from 

the deck. 

The boatmen and clam-diggers arose early and stopt for me, 

I tuck'd my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good 

time ; 
You should have been with us that day round the chowder-kettle. 

I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in the far west, 

the bride was a red girl. 
Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and dumbly 

smoking, they had moccasins to their feet and large thick 

blankets hanging from their shoulders. 
On a bank lounged the trapper, he was drest mostly in skins, his 

luxuriant beard and curls protected his neck, he held his 

bride by the hand. 
She had long eyelashes, her head was bare, her coarse straight 

locks descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reach'd to 

her feet. 

The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside, 
I heard his motions crackhng the twigs of the woodpile. 
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him Hmpsy and 

And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him. 
And brought water and fill'd a tub for his sweated body and bruis'd 

And gave him a room that enter'd from my own, and gave him 

some coarse clean clothes, 
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness, 
And remember putting plasters on the galls of his neck and ankles ; 
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass'd 

I had him sit next me at table, my fire-lock lean'd in the corner. 

Song of Myself, 37 


Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore, 
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly ; 
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome. 

She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank, 

She hides handsome and richly drest aft the bUnds of the window. 

Which of the young men does she like the best ? 
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her. 

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you, 

You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room. 

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather. 
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them. 

The beards of the young men glisten'd with wet, it ran from tneir 

long hair, 
Little streams pass'd all over their bodies. 

An unseen hand also pass'd over their bodies. 

It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs. 

The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to 
the sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them. 

They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bend- 
ing arch, 

They do not think whom they souse with spray. 

The butcher-boy puts off his killing-clothes, or sharpens his knife 

at the stall in the market, 
I loiter enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and break-down. 

Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ the anvil. 
Each has his main-sledge, they are all out, there is a great heat in 
the fire. 

From the cinder-strew'd threshold I follow their movements. 
The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with their massive arms, 
Overhand the hammers swing, overhand so slow, overhand so 

They do not hasten, each man hits in his place. 

38 Leaves of Grass, 


The negro holds firmly the reins of his four horses, the block swags 

underneath on its tied-over chain, 
The negro that drives the long dray of the stone-yard, steady and 

tall he stands pois'd on one leg on the string-piece, 
His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast and loosens over 

his hip-band. 
His glance is calm and commanding, he tosses the slouch of his 

hat away from his forehead, 
The sun falls on his crispy hair and mustache, falls on the black 

of his polish'd and perfect limbs. 

I behold the picturesque giant and love him, and I do not stop 

I go with the team also. 

In me the caresser of life wherever moving, backward as well as 
forward sluing. 

To niches aside and junior bending, not a person or object miss- 

Absorbing all to myself and for this song. 

Oxen that rattle the yoke and chain or halt in the leafy shade, 

what is that you express in your eyes ? 
It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life. 

My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck on my distant and 

day-long ramble, 
They rise together, they slowly circle around. 

I believe in those wing'd purposes, 

And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me, 

And consider green and violet and the tufted crown intentional, 

And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something 

And the jay in the woods never studied the gamut, yet trills pretty 

well to me. 
And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me. 


The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night, 
Ya-honk he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation, 
The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listening close, 
Find its purpose and place up there toward the wintry sky. 

Song of Myself. 39 

The sharp-hoof d moose of the north, the cat on the nouse-sill, 

the chickadee, the prairie-dog, 
The Htter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats. 
The brood of the turkey- hen and she witli her half- spread wings, 
I see in them and myself the same old law. 

The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections, 
They scorn the best I can do to relate them. 

I am enamour'd of growing out-doors. 

Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods. 

Of the builders and steerers of ships and the wielders of axes and 

mauls, and the drivers of horses, 
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out. 

What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me, 
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns, 
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me, 
Not asking the sky to come down to my good will, 
Scattering it freely forever. 


The pure contralto sings in the organ loft. 

The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane whistles 

its wild ascending lisp. 
The married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanks- 
giving dinner, 
The pilot seizes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong arm. 
The mate stands braced in the whale-boat, lance and harpoon are 

The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches. 
The deacons are ordain'd with cross'd hands at the altar. 
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big 

The farmer stops by the bars as he walks on a First-day loafe and 

looks at the oats and rye, 
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirm'd case, 
(He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his mother's 

bed-room ;) 
The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case. 
He turns his quid of tobacco while his eyes blurr with the manu- 
script ; 
The malformed limbs are tied to the surgeon's table. 
What is removed drops horribly in a pail ; 

40 Leaves of Grass. 

The quadroon girl is sold at the auction-stand, the drunkard nods 

by the bar-room stove, 
The machinist rolls up his sleeves, the policeman travels his beat, 

the gate-keeper marks who pass. 
The young fellow drives the express-wagon, (I love him, though 

I do not know him ;) 
The half-breed straps on his light boots to compete in the race. 
The western turkey-shooting draws old and young, some lean on 

their rifles, some sit on logs, 
Out from the crowd steps the marksman, takes his position, levels 

his piece ; 
The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the wharf or levee, 
As the woolly-pates hoe in the sugar-field, the overseer views them 

from his saddle. 
The bugle calls in the ball-room, the gentlemen run for their part- 
ners, the dancers bow to each other. 
The youth lies awake in the cedar-roof'd garret and harks to the 

musical rain. 
The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron, 
The squaw wrapt in her yellow-hemm'd cloth is offering moccasins 

and bead-bags for sale. 
The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with half-shut 

eyes bent sideways, 
As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat the plank is thrown for 

the shore-going passengers, 
The young sister holds out the skein while the elder sister winds it 

off in a ball, and stops now and then for the knots, 
The one-year wife is recovering and happy having a week ago 

borne her first child. 
The clean-hair'd Yankee girl works with her sewing-machine or in 

the factory or mill, 
The paving-man leans on his two-handed rammer, the reporter's 

lead flies swiftly over the note-book, the sign-painter is 

lettering with blue and gold. 
The canal boy trots on the tow-path, the book-keeper counts at 

his desk, the shoemaker waxes his thread, 
The conductor beats time for the band and all the performers 

follow him, 
The child is baptized, the convert is making his first professions. 
The regatta is spread on the bay, the race is begun, (how the 

white sails sparkle !) 
The drover watching his drove sings out to them that would 

The pedler sweats with his pack on his back, (the purchaser hig- 
gling about the odd cent ;) 

Song of Myself. 4 1 

The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-hand of the clock 

moves slowly, 
The opium-eater recHnes with rigid head and just-open'd lips, 
The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her tipsy 

and pimpled neck, 
The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink 

to each other, 
(Miserable ! I do not laugh at your oaths nor jeer you ;) 
The President holding a cabinet council is surrounded by the great 

On the piazza walk three matrons stately and friendly with twined 

The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of hahbut in the 

The Missourian crosses the plains toting his wares and his cattle, 
As the fare-collector goes through the train he gives notice by the 

jingling of loose change. 
The floor-men are laying the floor, the tinners are tinning the roof, 

the masons are calling for mortar. 
In single file each shouldering his hod pass onward the laborers ; 
Seasons pursuing each other the indescribable crowd is gather'd, 

it is the fourth of Seventh-month, (what salutes of cannon 

and small arms !) 
Seasons pursuing each other the plougher ploughs, the mower 

mows, and the winter-grain falls in the ground ; 
Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by the hole in 

the frozen surface. 
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes 

deep with his axe, 
Flatboatmen make fast towards dusk near the cotton-wood or 

Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red river or through 

those drain'd by the Tennessee, or through those of the 

Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chattahooche or 

Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great-grand- 
sons around them. 
In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers after 

their day's sport. 
The city sleeps and the country sleeps. 

The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for their time. 
The old husband sleeps by his wife and the young husband sleeps 

by his wife ; 
And these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them, 

42 Leaves of Grass. 

And such as it is to be of these more or less I am, 
And of these one and all I weave the song of myself. 


I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise, 

Regardless of others, ever regardful of others. 

Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man, 

Stuff'd with the stuff that is coarse and stuff'd with the stuff that 
is fine, 

One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the 
largest the same, 

A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and 
hospitable down by the Oconee I live, 

A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the 
limberest joints on earth and the sternest joints on 

A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin 
leggings, a Louisianian or Georgian, 

A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger, 
Buckeye ; 

At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with 
fishermen off Newfoundland, 

At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and tack- 

At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the 
Texan ranch. 

Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (lov- 
ing their big proportions,) 

Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake 
hands and welcome to drink and meat, 

A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest, 

A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons, 

Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion, 

A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker, 

Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest. 

I resist any thing better than my own diversity, 
Breathe the air but leave plenty after me, 
And am not stuck up, and am in my place. 

(The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place. 

The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their 

The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.) 

Song of Myself. 43 


These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they 

are not original with me, 
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next 

to nothing. 
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are 

If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing. 

This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is, 
This the common air that bathes the globe, 


With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums, 
I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for 
conquer'd and slain persons. 

Have you heard that it was good to gain the day? 
I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in 
which they are won. 

I beat and pound for the dead, 

I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them. 

Vivas to those who have fail'd ! 
And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea ! 
And to those themselves who sank in the sea ! 
And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes ! 
And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes 
known ! 


This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger, 
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make appoint- 
ments with all, 
I will not have a single person slighted or left away, 
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited. 
The heavy-lipp'd slave is invited, the venerealee is invited ; 
There shall be no difference between them and the rest. 

This is the press of a bashful hand, this the float and odor of hair. 
This the touch of my lips to yours, this the murmur of yearning, 
This the far-off depth and height reflecting my own face. 
This the thoughtful merge of myself, and the outlet again. 

44 Leaves of Grass. 

Do you guess I have some intricate purpose ? 
Well I have, for the Fourth-month showers have, and the mica on 
the side of a rock has. 

Do you take it I would astonish ? 

Does the daylight astonish? does the early redstart twittering 

through the woods ? 
Do I astonish more than they ? 

This hour I tell things in confidence, 

I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you. 


Who goes there ? hankering, gross, mystical, nude ; 
How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat? 

What is a man anyhow ? what am I ? what are you ? 

All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own, 
Else it were time lost listening to me. 

I do not snivel that snivel the world over. 

That months are vacuums and the ground but wallow and filth. 

Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for invalids, con- 
formity goes to the fourth-remov'd, 
I wear my hat as I please indoors or out. 

Why should I pray ? why should I venerate and be ceremonious ? 

Having pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair, counsel'd with 

doctors and calculated close, 
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones. 

In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn 

And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them. 

I know I am sohd and sound. 

To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow, 

All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means. 

I know I am deathless, 

I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter's 

Song of Myself, 45 

I know I shall not pass like a child's carlacue cut with a burnt 
stick at night. 

I know I am august, 

I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood, 
I see that the elementary laws never apologize, 
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, 
after all.) 

I exist as I am, that is enough. 

If no other in the world be aware I sit content. 

And if each and all be aware I sit content. 

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is my- 

And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten 
million years, 

I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait. 

My foothold is tenon'd and mortis'd in granite, 
I laugh at what you call dissolution. 
And I know the ampUtude of time. 

I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul, 

The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are 

with me, 
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate 

into a new tongue. 

I am the poet of the woman the same as the man. 
And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man. 
And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men. 

I chant the chant of dilation or pride, 

We have had ducking and deprecating about enough, 

I show that size is only development. 

Have you outstript the rest? are you the President? 
It is a trifle, they will more than arrive there every one, and still 
pass on. 

I am he that walks with the tender and growing night, 
I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night. 

46 Leaves of Grass. 

Press close bare-bosom'd night — press close magnetic nourishing 

night ! 
Night of south winds — night of the large few stars ! 
Still nodding night — mad naked summer night. 

Smile O voluptuous cool-breath'd earth ! 

Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees ! 

Earth of departed sunset — earth of the mountains misty-topt ! 

Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue ! 

Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river ! 

Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my 

sake ! 
Far-swooping elbow'd earth — rich apple-blossom'd earth ! 
Smile, for your lover comes. 

Prodigal, you have given me love — therefore I to you give love ! 

unspeakable passionate love. 


You sea ! I resign myself to you also — I guess what you mean, 

1 behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers, 
I beheve you refuse to go back without feeling of me. 

We must have a turn together, I undress, hurry me out of sight of 

the land, 
Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse, 
Dash me with amorous wet, 1 can repay you. 

Sea of stretch'd ground-swells, 

Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths. 

Sea of the brine of life and of unshovell'd yet always-ready graves, 

Howler and scooper of storms, capricious and dainty sea, 

I am integral with you, I too am of one phase and of all phases. 

Partaker of influx and efflux I, extoller of hate and conciliation, 
Extoller of amies and those that sleep in each others' arms. 

I am he attesting sympathy, 

(Shall I make my list of things in the house and skip the house 
that supports them ?) 

I am not the poet of goodness only, I do not decline to be the 
poet of wickedness also. 

What blurt is this about virtue and about vice ? 

Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent, 

Song of Myself. 47 

My gait is no fault-finder's or rejecter's gait, 
I moisten the roots of all that has grown. 

Did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging pregnancy? 
Did you guess the celestial laws are yet to be work'd over and 

I find one side a balance and the antipodal side a balance, 

Soft doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine, 

Thoughts and deeds of the present our rouse and early start. 

This minute that comes to me over the past decillions, 
There is no better than it and now. 

What behaved well in the past or behaves well to-day is not such 

a wonder, 
The wonder is always and always how there can be a mean man 

or an infidel. 


Endless unfolding of words of ages ! 

And mine a word of the modern, the word En-Masse. 

A word of the faith that never balks. 

Here or henceforward it is all the same to me, I accept Time abso- 

It alone is without flaw, it alone rounds and completes all, 
That mystic baffling wonder alone completes all. 

I accept Reality and dare not question it, 
Materialism first and last imbuing. 

Hurrah for positive science ! long live exact demonstration ! 

Fetch stonecrop mixt with cedar and branches of lilac. 

This is the lexicographer, this the chemist, this made a grammar 

of the old cartouches. 
These mariners put the ship through dangerous unknown seas, 
This is the geologist, this works with the scalpel, and this is a 


Gentlemen, to you the first honors always ! 

Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling, 

I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling. 

48 Leaves of Grass. 

Less the reminders of properties told my words, 

And more the reminders they of life untold, and of freedom and 

And make short account of neuters and geldings, and favor men 

and women fully equipt. 
And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives and them that 

plot and conspire. 


Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son. 

Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding, 

No sentimentalist, no stander above men and women or apart from 

No more modest than immodest. 

Unscrew the locks from the doors ! 

Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs ! 

Whoever degrades another degrades me, 

And whatever is done or said returns at last to me. 

Through me the afflatus surging and surging, through me the cur- 
rent and index. 

I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy, 
By God ! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their coun- 
terpart of on the same terms. 

Through me many long dumb voices, 

Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves. 

Voices of the diseased and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs. 

Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion, 

And of the threads that connect the stars, and of wombs and of 

the father-stuff. 
And of the rights of them the others are down upon, 
Of the deform'd, trivial, flat, foolish, despised, 
Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung. 

Through me forbidden voices, 

Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil'd and I remove the veil, 

Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigur'd. 

I do not press my fingers across my mouth, 

I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and heart, 

Copulation is no more rank to me than death is. 

Song of Myself. 49 

I believe in the flesh and the appetites, 

Seeing, hearing, feehng, are miracles, and each part and tag of me 
is a miracle. 

Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or 

am touch'd from, 
The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer. 
This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds. 

If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of 

my own body, or any part of it, 
Translucent mould of me it shall be you ! 
Shaded ledges and rests it shall be you ! 
Firm masculine colter it shall be you ! 
Whatever goes to the tilth of me it shall be you ! 
You my rich blood ! your milky stream pale strippings of my life \ 
Breast that presses against other breasts it shall be you ! 
My brain it shall be your occult convolutions ! 
Root of wash'd sweet-flag ! timorous pond-snipe ! nest of guarded 

duplicate eggs ! it shall be you ! 
Mix'd tussled hay of head, beard, brawn, it shall be you ! 
Trickling sap of maple, fibre of manly wheat, it shall be you ! 
Sun so generous it shall be you ! 
Vapors lighting and shading my face it shall be you ! 
You sweaty brooks and dews it shall be you ! 
Winds whose soft-tickHng genitals rub against me it shall be you ! 
Broad muscular fields, branches of live oak, loving lounger in my 

winding paths, it shall be you ! 
Hands I have taken, face I have kiss'd, mortal I have ever 

touch'd, it shall be you. 

I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious, 

Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy, 

I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my 

faintest wish. 
Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of the friend- 
ship I take again. 

That I walk up my stoop, I pause to consider if it really be, 
A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the meta- 
physics of books. 

To behold the day-break ! 

The little light fades the immense and diaphanous shadows, 

The air tastes good to my palate. 

so Leaves of Grass. 

Hefts of the moving world at innocent gambols silently rising, 

freshly exuding, 
Scooting obliquely high and low. 

Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous prongs, 
Seas of bright juice suffuse heaven. 

The earth by the sky staid with, the daily close of their junction, 
The heav'd challenge from the east that moment over my head, 
The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be master ! 

Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would kill me, 
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me. 

We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the sun, 
We found our own O my soul in the calm and cool of the day- 

My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach. 
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of 

Speech is the twin of my vision, it is unequal to measure itself, 

It provokes me forever, it says sarcastically, 

Walt you contain enough^ why do7i't you let it out then ? 

Come now I will not be tantalized, you conceive too much of 

Do you not know O speech how the buds beneath you are folded ? 
Waiting in gloom, protected by frost. 
The dirt receding before my prophetical screams, 
I underlying causes to balance them at last, 
My knowledge my live parts, it keeping tally with the meaning of 

all things. 
Happiness, (which whoever hears me let him or her set out in 

search of this day.) 

My final merit I refuse you, I refuse putting from me what I really 

Encompass worlds, but never try to encompass me, 
I crowd your sleekest and best by simply looking toward you. 

Writing and talk do not prove me, 

I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face, 

With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic. 

Song of Myself. $l 


Now I will do nothing but listen, 

To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute 
toward it. 

I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames, 

clack of sticks cooking my meals, 
I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice, 
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following, 
Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day 

and night. 
Talkative young ones to those that Hke them, the loud laugh of 

work-people at their meals. 
The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick. 
The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronoun- 
cing a death-sentence. 
The heave'e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the 

refrain of the anchor-lifters. 
The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of swift-streak- 
ing engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles and 
color'd lights. 
The steam- whisde, the solid roll of the train of approaching cars, 
The slow march play'd at the head of the association marching 

two and two, 
(They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are draped with 
black musHn.) 

I hear the violoncello, ('tis the young man's heart's complaint,) 
I hear the key'd cornet, it ghdes quickly in through my ears, 
It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and breast. 

I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera, 
Ah this indeed is music — this suits me. 

A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me, 

The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling me full. 

I hear the train'd soprano (what work with hers is this ?) 

The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies. 

It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possessed 

It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are lick'd by the indolent 

I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath, 

52 Leaves of Grass. 

Steeped amid honeyed morphine, my windpipe throttled in fakes 

of death, 
At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles, 
And that we call Being. 


To be in any form, what is that? 

(Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come back thither,) 
If nothing lay more develop'd the quahaug in its callous shell were 

Mine is no callous shell, 

I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop, 

They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me. 

I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happy. 
To touch my person to some one else's is about as much as I can 

Is this then a touch ? quivering me to a new identity, 

Flames and ether making a rush for my veins, 

Treacherous tip of me reaching and crowding to help them, 

My flesh and blood playing out hghtning to strike what is hardly 

different from myself, 
On all sides prurient provokers stiffening my limbs, 
Straining the udder of my heart for its withheld drip, 
Behaving licentious toward me, taking no denial, 
Depriving me of my best as for a purpose. 
Unbuttoning my clothes, holding me by the bare waist. 
Deluding my confusion with the calm of the sunlight and pasture- 
Immodestly sliding the fellow-senses away, 
They bribed to swap off with touch and go and graze at the edges 

of me, 
No consideration, no regard for my draining strength or my anger, 
Fetching the rest of the herd around to enjoy them a while, 
Then all uniting to stand on a headland and worry me. 

The sentries desert every other part of me. 

They have left me helpless to a red marauder, 

They all come to the headland to witness and assist against me. 

I am given up by traitors, 

I talk wildly, I have lost my wits, I and nobody else am the 
greatest traitor, 

Song of Myself, 53 

I went myself first to the headland, my own hands carried me 

You villain touch ! what are you doing ? my breath is tight in its 

Unclench your floodgates, you are too much for me. 


Blind loving wrestling touch, sheathed hooded sharp-tooth'd 

touch ! 
Did it make you ache so, leaving me ? 

Parting track'd by arriving, perpetual payment of perpetual loan. 
Rich showering rain, and recompense richer afterward. 

Sprouts take and accumulate, stand by the curb prolific and vital, 
Landscapes projected mascuHne, full-sized and golden. 

All truths wait in all things, 

They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it. 
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon, 
The insignificant is as big to me as any, 
(What is less or more than a touch ?) 

Logic and sermons never convince. 

The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul. 

(Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so, 
Only what nobody denies is so.) 

A minute and a drop of me settle my brain, 

I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and lamps. 

And a compend of compends is the meat of a man or woman. 

And a summit and flower there is the feeling they have for each 

And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it 

becomes omnific, 
And until one and all shall delight us, and we them. 


I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars. 
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the 
egg of the wren. 

54 Leaves of Grass. 

And the tree-toad is a chef-d'oeuvre for the highest, 
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven, 
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery, 
And the cow crunching with depress'd head surpasses any statue, 
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels. 

I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss, fruits, grains, 

esculent roots. 
And am stucco'd with quadrupeds and birds all over. 
And have distanced what is behind me for good reasons, 
But call any thing back again when I desire it. 

In vain the speeding or shyness, 

In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against my approach, 

In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its ow^n powder'd bones. 

In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes. 

In vain the ocean settling in hollows and the great monsters lying 

In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky. 
In vain the snake slides through the creepers and logs, 
In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods. 
In vain the razor-bill'd auk sails far north to Labrador, 
I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure of the cHff. 


I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and 

I stand and look at them long and long. 

They do not sweat and whine about their condition. 

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. 

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God, 

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of 

owning things. 
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of 

years ago. 
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth. 

So they show their relations to me and I accept them. 
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their 

I wonder where they get those tokens, 

Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them ? 

Song of Myself. 55 

Myself moving forward then and now and forever, 
Gathering and showing more always and with velocity, 
Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among them, 
Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remembrancers. 
Picking out here one that I love, and now go with him on brotherly 

A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses, 

Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears, 

Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground. 

Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving. 

His nostrils dilate as my heels embrace him. 

His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and 

I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion, 

Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them ? 

Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you. 


Space and Time ! now I see it is true, what I guessed at, 
What I guess'd when I loafd on the grass. 
What I guess'd while I lay alone in my bed. 

And again as I walk'd the beach under the pahng stars of the 

My ties and ballasts leave me, my elbows rest in sea-gaps, 
I skirt sierras, my palms cover continents, 
I am afoot with my vision. 

By the city's quadrangular houses — in log huts, camping with 

Along the ruts of the turnpike, along the dry gulch and rivulet bed, 
Weeding my onion-patch or hoeing rows of carrots and parsnips, 

crossing savannas, trailing in forests. 
Prospecting, gold-digging, girdling the trees of a new purchase, 
Scorch'd ankle-deep by the hot sand, hauling my boat down the 

shallow river. 
Where the panther walks to and fro on a limb overhead, where 

the buck turns furiously at the hunter. 
Where the rattlesnake suns his flabby length on a rock, where the 

otter is feeding on fish. 
Where the alligator in his tough pimples sleeps by the bayou, 

$6 Leaves of Grass. 

Where the black bear is searching for roots or honey, where the 

beaver pats the mud with his paddle-shaped tail ; 
Over the growing sugar, over the yellow-flower'd cotton plant, over 

the rice in its low moist field. 
Over the sharp-peak'd farm house, with its scallop'd scum and 

slender shoots from the gutters, 
Over the western persimmon, over the long-leav'd corn, over the 

deHcate blue-flower flax. 
Over the white and brown buckwheat, a hummer and buzzer there 

with the rest. 
Over the dusky green of the rye as it ripples and shades in the 

breeze ; 
Scaling mountains, pulling myself cautiously up, holding on by low 

scragged limbs. 
Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through the leaves of 

the brush. 
Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and the wheat-lot. 
Where the bat flies in the Seventh-month eve, where the great gold- 
bug drops through the dark. 
Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to 

the meadow, 
Where cattle stand and shake away flies with the tremulous shud- 
dering of their hides. 
Where the cheese-cloth hangs in the kitchen, where andirons 
straddle the hearth-slab, where cobwebs fall in festoons 
from the rafters ; 
Where trip-hammers crash, where the press is whirling its cylinders. 
Wherever the human heart beats with terrible throes under its 

Where the pear-shaped balloon is floating aloft, (floating in it my- 
self and looking composedly down,) 
Where the life-car is drawn on the slip-noose, where the heat 

hatches pale-green eggs in the dented sand, 
Where the she-whale swims with her calf and never forsakes it, 
Where the steam-ship trails hind-ways its long pennant of smoke, 
Where the fin of the shark cuts like a black chip out of the water. 
Where the half-burn'd brig is riding on unknown currents, 
Where shells grow to her slimy deck, where the dead are corrupt- 
ing below ; 
Where the dense-starr'd flag is borne at the head of the regiments. 
Approaching Manhattan up by the long-stretching island. 
Under Niagara, the cataract falling Hke a veil over my countenance. 
Upon a door-step, upon the horse-block of hard wood outside. 
Upon the race-course, or enjoying picnics or jigs or a good game 
of base-ball, 

Song of Myself. 57 

At he-festivals, with blackguard gibes, ironical license, bull-dances, 

drinking, laughter, 
At the cider-mill tasting the sweets of the brown mash, sucking 

the juice through a straw. 
At apple-peelings wanting kisses for all the red fruit I find, 
At musters, beach-parties, friendly bees, huskings, house-raisings ; 
Where the mocking-bird sounds his deUcious gurgles, cackles, 

screams, weeps. 
Where the hay-rick stands in the barn-yard, where the dry-stalks 

are scatter'd, where the brood-cow waits in the hovel. 
Where the bull advances to do his masculine work, where the stud 

to the mare, where the cock is treading the hen, 
Where the heifers browse, where geese nip their food with short 

Where sun-down shadows lengthen over the limitless and lonesome 

Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spread of the square 

miles far and near. 
Where the humming-bird shimmers, where the neck of the long- 
lived swan is curving and winding. 
Where the laughing-gull scoots by the shore, where she laughs her 

near-human laugh. 
Where bee-hives range on a gray bench in the garden half hid by 

the high weeds, 
Where band-neck'd partridges roost in a ring on the ground with 

their heads out. 
Where burial coaches enter the arch'd gates of a cemetery, 
Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and icicled trees. 
Where the yellow-crown'd heron comes to the edge of the marsh 

at night and feeds upon small crabs. 
Where the splash of swimmers and divers cools the warm noon. 
Where the katy-did works her chromatic reed on the walnut-tree 

over the well. 
Through patches of citrons and cucumbers with silver-wired leaves. 
Through the salt-lick or orange glade, or under conical firs. 
Through the gymnasium, through the curtain'd saloon, through the 

office or* public hall ; 
Pleased with the native and pleas'd with the foreign, pleas'd with 

the new and old, 
Pleas'd with the homely woman as well as the handsome, 
Pleas'd with the quakeress as she puts off her bonnet and talks 

Pleas'd with the tune of the choir of the whitewash'd church, 
Pleas'd with the earnest words of the sweating Methodist preach- 
er, impress'd seriously at the camp-meeting ; 

58 Leaves of Grass. 

Looking in at the shop-windows of Broadway the whole forenoon, 

flatting the flesh of my nose on the thick plate-glass, 
Wandering the same afternoon with my face turn'd up to the 

clouds, or down a lane or along the beach, 
My right and left arms round the sides of two friends, and I in the 

middle ; 
Coming home with the silent and dark-cheek 'd bush-boy, (behind 

me he rides at the drape of the day,) 
Far from the settlements studying the print of animals' feet, or 

the moccasin print, 
By the cot in the hospital reaching lemonade to a feverish patient, 
Nigh the coflin'd corpse when all is still, examining with a candle ; 
Voyaging to every port to dicker and adventure. 
Hurrying with the modern crowd as eager and fickle as any. 
Hot toward one I hate, ready in my madness to knife him. 
Solitary at midnight in my ]3ack yard, my thoughts gone from me 

a long while. 
Walking the old hills of Judsea with the beautiful gentle God by 

my side. 
Speeding through space, speeding through heaven and the stars. 
Speeding amid the seven satellites and the broad ring, and the 

diameter of eighty thousand miles. 
Speeding with tail'd meteors, throwing fire-balls like the rest. 
Carrying the crescent child that carries its own full mother in 

its belly. 
Storming, enjoying, planning, loving, cautioning. 
Backing and filling, appearing and disappearing, 
I tread day and night such roads. 

I visit the orchards of spheres and look at the product. 

And look at quintillions ripen'd and look at quintillions green. 

I fly those flights of a fluid and swallowing soul, 
My course runs below the soundings of plummets. 

I help myself to material and immaterial. 

No guard can shut me ofl", no law prevent me. 

I anchor my ship for a little while only. 

My messengers continually cruise away or bring their returns to me. 

I go hunting polar furs and the seal, leaping chasms with a pike- 
pointed staff, clinging to topples of brittle and blue. 

I ascend to the foretruck, 

Song of Myself. 59 

I take my place late at night in the crow's-nest, 
We sail the arctic sea, it is plenty light enough, 
Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on the wonderful 

The enormous masses of ice pass me and I pass them, the scenery 

is plain in all directions. 
The white-topt mountains show in the distance, I fling out my 

fancies toward them. 
We are approaching some great battle-field in which we are soon 

to be engaged, 
We pass the colossal outposts of the encampment, we pass with 

still feet and caution, 
Or we are entering by the suburbs some vast and ruin'd city, 
The blocks and fallen architecture more than all the living cities 

of the globe. 

I am a free companion, I bivouac by invading watchfires, 

I turn the bridegroom out of bed and stay with the bride myself, 

I tighten her all night to my thighs and lips. 

My voice is the wife's voice, the screech by the rail of the stairs, 

They fetch my man's body up dripping and drown'd. 


I understand the large hearts of heroes. 

The courage of present times and all times. 

How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of the 
steam-ship, and Death chasing it up and down the storm. 

How he knuckled tight and gave not back an inch, and was faith- 
ful of days and faithful of nights. 

And chalk'd in large letters on a board. Be of good cheer ^ we will 
not desert yoti ; 

How he follow'd with them and tack'd with them three days and 
would not give it up. 

How he saved the drifting company at last, 

How the lank loose-gown'd women look'd when boated from the 
side of their prepared graves, 

How the silent old-faced infants and the Hfted sick, and the sharp- 
lipp'd unshaved men ; 

All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes mine, 

I am the .man, I suffer'd, I was there. 

The disdain and calmness of martyrs. 

The mother of old, condemn'd for a witch, burnt with dry wood, 
her children gazing on. 

The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the fence, blow- 
ing, cover'd with sweat. 

6o Leaves of Grass. 

The twinges that sting hke needles his legs and neck, the mur- 
derous buckshot and the bullets, 
All these I feel or am. 

I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the dogs, 

Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again crack the marks- 

I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore dribs, thinn'd with the 
ooze of my skin, 

I fall on the weeds and stones. 

The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close. 

Taunt my dizzy ears and beat me violently over the head with 

Agonies are one of my changes of garments, 

I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become 

the wounded person, 
My hurts turn livid upon me as I lean on a cane and observe. 

I am the mash'd fireman with breast-bone broken, 
Tumbhng walls buried me in their debris. 

Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling shouts of my com- 
I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels. 
They have clear'd the beams away, they tenderly Hft me forth. 

I lie in the night air in my red shirt, the pervading hush is for my 

Painless after all I lie exhausted but not so unhappy. 
White and beautiful are the faces around me, the heads are bared 

of their fire-caps. 
The kneeling crowd fades with the Hght of the torches. 

Distant and dead resuscitate. 

They show as the dial or move as the hands of me, I am the clock 

I am an old artillerist, I tell of my fort's bombardment, 
I am there again. 

Again the long roll of the drummers. 
Again the attacking cannon, mortars. 
Again to my listening ears the cannon responsive. 

I take part, I see and hear the whole, 

Song of Myself. 6i 

The cries, curses, roar, the plaudits for well-aim'd shots. 
The ambulanza slowly passing trailing its red drip, 
Workmen searching after damages, making indispensable repairs, 
The fall of grenades through the rent roof, the fan-shaped explo- 
The whizz of limbs, heads, stone, wood, iron, high in the air. 

Again gurgles the mouth of my dying general, he furiously waves 
with his hand, 

He gasps through the clot Mind not me — mind — the entrench- 


Now I tell what I knew in Texas in my early youth, 
(I tell not the fall of Alamo, 
Not one escaped to tell the fall of Alamo, 
The hundred and fifty are dumb yet at Alamo,) 
Tis the tale of the murder in cold blood of four hundred and 
twelve young men. 

Retreating they had form'd in a hollow square with their baggage 

for breastworks. 
Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemy's, nine times 

their number, was the price they took in advance. 
Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition gone. 
They treated for an honorable capitulation, receiv'd writing and 

seal, gave up their arms and march'd back prisoners of war. 

They were the glory of the race of rangers, 

Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship. 

Large, turbulent, generous, handsome, proud, and affectionate, 

Bearded, sunburnt, drest in the free costume of hunters, 

Not a single one over thirty years of age. 

The second First-day morning they were brought out in squads 

and massacred, it was beautiful early summer, 
The work commenced about five o'clock and was over by eight. 

None obey'd the command to kneel. 

Some made a mad and helpless rush, some stood stark and 

A few fell at once, shot in the temple or heart, the living and dead 

lay together. 
The maim'd and mangled dug in the dirt, the new-comers saw 

them there, 

62 Leaves of Grass. 

Some half-kill'd attempted to crawl away, 

These were despatch'd with bayonets or batter'd with the blunts 

of muskets, 
A youth not seventeen years old seiz'd his assassin till two more 

came to release him, 
The three were all torn and cover'd with the boy's blood. 

At eleven o'clock began the burning of the bodies ; 
That is the tale of the murder of the four hundred and twelve 
young men. 


Would you hear of an old-time sea-fight? 

Would you learn who won by the light of the moon and stars ? 

List to the yarn, as my grandmother's father the sailor told it to me. 

Our foe was no skulk in his ship I tell you, (said he,) 

His was the surly English pluck, and there is no tougher or truer, 

and never was, and never will be ; 
Along the lower'd eve he came horribly raking us. 

We closed with him, the yards entangled, the cannon touch'd, 
My captain lash'd fast with his own hands. 

We had receiv'd some eighteen pound shots under the water, 
On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst at the first fire, 
killing all around and blowing up overhead. 

Fighting at sun-down, fighting at dark. 

Ten o'clock at night, the full moon well up, our leaks on the gain, 

and five feet of water reported. 
The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined in the after-hold 

to give them a chance for themselves. 

The transit to and from the magazine is now stopt by the sentinels, 
They see so many strange faces they do not know whom to trust. 

Our frigate takes fire, 

The other asks if we demand quarter? 

If our colors are struck and the fighting done? 

Now I laugh content, for I hear the voice of my little captain, 
We have not sti^uck^ he composedly cries, we have just begun our 
part of the fighting. 

Song of Myself. 63 

Only three guns are in use, 

One is directed by the captain himself against the enemy's main- 

Two well serv'd with grape and canister silence his musketry and 
clear his decks. 

The tops alone second the fire of this little battery, especially the 

They hold out bravely during the whole of the action. 

Not a moment's cease. 

The leaks gain fast on the pumps, the fire eats toward the powder- 

One of the pumps has been shot away, it is generally thought we 

are sinking. 

Serene stands the little captain, 

He is not hurried, his voice is neither high nor low. 

His eyes give more light to us than our battle-lanterns. 

Toward twelve there in the beams of the moon they surrender to 


Stretched and still lies the midnight, 

Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the darkness. 

Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking, preparations to pass to the 

one we have conquer'd, 
The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his orders through 

a countenance white as a sheet, 
Near by the corpse of the child that serv'd in the cabin. 
The dead face of an old salt with long white hair and carefully 

curl'd whiskers, 
The flames spite of all that can be done flickering aloft and below, 
The husky voices of the two or three officers yet fit for duty. 
Formless stacks of bodies and bodies by themselves, dabs of flesh 

upon the masts and spars, 
Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the soothe of 

Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels, strong scent, 
A few large stars overhead, silent and mournful shining. 
Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass and fields by the 

shore, death-messages given in charge to survivors. 
The hiss of the surgeon's knife, the gnawing teeth of his saw, 

64 Leaves of Grass. 

Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild scream, and long, 

dull, tapering groan, 
These so, these irretrievable. 


You laggards there on guard ! look to your arms ! 

In at the conquer'd doors they crowd ! I am possessed ! 

Embody all presences outlaw'd or suffering, 

See myself in prison shaped like another man, 

And feel the dull unintermitted pain. 

For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their carbines and keep 

It is I let out in the morning and barr'd at night. 

Not a mutineer walks handcuff 'd to jail but I am handcufif'd to 

him and walk by his side, 
(I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one with sweat 

on my twitching lips.) 

Not a youngster is taken for larceny but I go up too, and am tried 
and sentenced. 

Not a cholera patient lies at the last gasp but I also lie at the last 

My face is ash-color'd, my sinews gnarl, away from me people 


Askers embody themselves in me and I am embodied in them, 
I project my hat, sit shame-faced, and beg. 


Enough ! enough ! enough ! 

Somehow I have been stunn'd. Stand back ! 

Give me a little time beyond my cuff'd head, slumbers, dreams, 

I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. 

That I could forget the mockers and insults ! 

That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the bludg- 
eons and hammers ! 

That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion and 
bloody crowning. 

Song of Myself. 65 

I remember now, 

I resume the overstaid fraction, 

The grave of rock vmultipHes what has been confided to it, or to 

any graves, 
Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me. 

I troop forth replenish'd with supreme power, one of an average 

unending procession. 
Inland and sea-coast we go, and pass all boundary lines. 
Our swift ordinances on their way over the whole earth. 
The blossoms we wear in our hats the growth of thousands of 


Eleves, I salute you ! come forward ! 

Continue your annotations, continue your questionings. 


The friendly and flowing savage, who is he ? 

Is he waiting for civilization, or past it and mastering it ? 

Is he some Southwesterner rais'd out-doors? is he Kanadian? 
Is he from the Mississippi country? Iowa, Oregon, California? 
The mountains ? prairie-life, bush-life ? or sailor from the sea ? 

Wherever he goes men and women accept and desire him, 
They desire he should like them, touch them, speak to them, stay 
with them. 

Behavior lawless as snow-flakes, words simple as grass, uncombed 
head, laughter, and naivete. 

Slow-stepping feet, common features, common modes and ema- 

They descend in new forms from the tips of his fingers, 

They are wafted with the odor of his body or breath, they fly out 
of the glance of his eyes. 


Flaunt of the sunshine I need not your bask — lie over ! 
You light surfaces only, I force surfaces and depths also. 

Earth ! you seem to look for something at my hands. 
Say, old top-knot, what do you want ? 

Man or woman, I might tell how I like you, but cannot, 

66 Leaves of Grass. 

And might tell what it is in me and what it is in you, but cannot, 
x\nd might tell that pining I have, that pulse of my nights and 

Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity, 
When I give I give myself. 

You there, impotent, loose in the knees. 

Open your scarf 'd chops till I blow grit within you, 

Spread your palms and lift the flaps of your pockets, 

I am not to be denied, I compel, I have stores plenty and to spare, 

And any thing I have I bestow. 

I do not ask who you are, that is not important to me, 

You can do nothing and be nothing but what I will infold you. 

To cotton-field drudge or cleaner of privies I lean, 

On his right cheek I put the family kiss. 

And in my soul I swear I never will deny him. 

On women fit for conception I start bigger and nimbler babes, 
(This day I am jetting the stuff of far more arrogant republics.) 

To any one dying, thither I speed and twist the knob of the door, 
Turn the bed-clothes toward the foot of the bed, 
Let the physician and the priest go home. 

I seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will, 

despairer, here is my neck. 

By God; you shall not go down ! hang your whole weight upon me. 

1 dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you up. 
Every room of the house do I fill with an arm'd force, 
Lovers of me, bafflers of graves. 

Sleep — I and they keep guard all night. 

Not doubt, not decease shall dare to lay finger upon you, 

I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you to myself. 

And when you rise in the morning you will find what I tell you is so. 

I am he bringing help for the sick as they pant on their backs, 
And for strong upright men I bring yet more needed help. 

Song of Myself. 6^ 

I heard what was said of the universe, 

Heard it and heard it of several thousand years ; 

It is middUng well as far as it goes — but is that all? 

Magnifying and applying come I, 

Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters, 

Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah, 

Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules his grandson. 

Buying drafts of Osiris, Isis, Belus, Brahma, Buddha, 

In my portfolio placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, the crucifix 

With Odin and the hideous-faced Mexitli and every idol and image, 
Taking them all for what they are worth and not a cent more, 
Admitting they were alive and did the work of their days, 
(They bore mites as for unfiedg'd birds who have now to rise and 

fly and sing for themselves,) 
Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out better in myself, 

bestowing them freely on each man and woman I see. 
Discovering as much or more in a framer framing a house. 
Putting higher claims for him there with his roll'd-up sleeves driving 

the mallet and chisel, 
Not objecting to special revelations, considering a curl of smoke 

or a hair on the back of my hand just as curious as any 

Lads ahold of fire-engines and hook-and-ladder ropes no less to 

me than the gods of the antique wars, 
Minding their voices peal through the crash of destruction. 
Their brawny limbs passing safe over charr'd laths, their white 

foreheads whole and unhurt out of the flames ; 
By the mechanic's wife with her babe at her nipple interceding for 

every person born. 
Three scythes at harvest whizzing in a row from three lusty angels 

with shirts bagg'd out at their waists. 
The snag-tooth'd hostler with red hair redeeming sins past and to 

Selling all he possesses, traveling on foot to fee lawyers for his 

brother and sit by him while he is tried for forgery ; 
What was strewn in the amplest strewing the square rod about 

me, and not filling the square rod then. 
The bull and the bug never worshipp'd half enough, 
Dung and dirt more admirable than was dream'd. 
The supernatural of no account, myself waiting my time to be one 

of the supremes, 
The day getting ready for me when I shall do as much good as 

the best, and be as prodigious ; 

68 Leaves of Grass. 

By my life-lumps ! becoming already a creator, 

Putting myself here and now to the ambush'd womb of the shadows. 


A call in the midst of the crowd, 

My own voice, orotund sweeping and final. 

Come my children. 

Come my boys and girls, my women, household and intimates. 
Now the performer launches his nerve, he has pass'd his prelude 
on the reeds within. 

Easily written loose-finger'd chords — I feel the thrum of your 
climax and close. 

My head slues round on my neck. 

Music rolls, but not from the organ. 

Folks are around me, but they are no household of mine. 

Ever the hard unsunk ground. 

Ever the eaters and drinkers, ever the upward and downward sun, 

ever the air and the ceaseless tides, 
Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing, wicked, real. 
Ever the old inexplicable query, ever that thorn'd thumb, that 

breath of itches and thirsts. 
Ever the vexer's hool/ hoot / till we find where the sly one hides 

and bring him forth, 
Ever love, ever the sobbing liquid of life. 
Ever the bandage under the chin, ever the trestles of death. 

Here and there with dimes on the eyes walking, 
To feed the greed of the belly the brains liberally spooning. 
Tickets buying, taking, selling, but in to the feast never once going, 
Many sweating, ploughing, thrashing, and then the chaff for pay- 
ment receiving, 
A few idly owning, and they the wheat continually claiming. 

This is the city and I am one of the citizens. 

Whatever interests the rest interests me, politics, wars, markets, 

newspapers, schools. 
The mayor and councils, banks, tariffs, steamships, factories, stocks, 

stores, real estate and personal estate. 

The little plentiful manikins skipping around in collars and tail'd 

Song of Myself. 69 

I am aware who they are, (they are positively not worms or fleas,) 
I acknowledge the duplicates of myself, the weakest and shallowest 

is deathless with me, 
What I do and say the same waits for them. 
Every thought that flounders in me the same flounders in them. 

I know perfecdy well my own egotism. 

Know my omnivorous lines and must not write any less, 

And would fetch you whoever you are flush with myself. 

Not words of routine this song of mine, 

But abruptly to question, to leap beyond yet nearer bring ; 

This printed and bound book — -but the printer and the printing- 
office boy? 

The well-taken photographs — but your wife or friend close and 
solid in your arms ? 

The black ship mail'd with iron, her mighty guns in her turrets — 
but the pluck of the captain and engineers ? 

In the houses the dishes and fare and furniture — but the host and 
hostess, and the look out of their eyes? 

The sky up there — yet here or next door, or across the way ? 

The saints and sages in history — but you yourself ? 

Sermons, creeds, theology — but the fathomless human brain, 

And what is reason ? and what is love ? and what is life ? 

I do not despise you priests, all time, the world over. 
My faith is the greatest of faiths and the least of faiths. 
Enclosing worship ancient and modern and all between ancient 

and modern. 
Believing I shall come again upon the earth after five thousand 

Waiting responses from oracles, honoring the gods, saluting the 

Making a fetich of the first rock or stump, powowing with sticks in 

the circle of obis. 
Helping the llama or brahmin as he trims the lamps of the idols, 
Dancing yet through the streets in a phallic procession, rapt and 

austere in the woods a gymnosophist. 
Drinking mead from the skull-cup, to Shastas and Vedas admirant, 

minding the Koran, 
Walking the teokallis, spotted with gore from the stone and knife, 

beating the serpent-skin drum. 
Accepting the Gospels, accepting him that was crucified, knowing 

assuredly that he is divine, 

70 Leaves of Grass. 

To the mass kneeling or the puritan's prayer rising, or ^tting 

patiently in a pew, 
Ranting and frothing in my insane crisis, or waiting dead-like till 

my spirit arouses me. 
Looking forth on pavement and land, or outside of pavement and 

Belonging to the winders of the circuit of circuits. 

One of that centripetal and centrifugal gang I turn and talk like a 
man leaving charges before a journey. 

Down-hearted doubters dull and excluded. 

Frivolous, sullen, moping, angry, affected, dishearten'd, atheistical, 
I know every one of you, I know the sea of torment, doubt, 
despair and unbelief. 

How the flukes splash ! 

How they contort rapid as lightning, with spasms and spouts of 
blood ! 

Be at peace bloody flukes of doubters and sullen mopers, 
I take my place among you as much as among any. 
The past is the push of you, me, all, precisely the same. 
And what is yet untried and afterward is for you, me, all, precisely 
the same. 

I do not know what is untried and afterward. 

But I know it will in its turn prove sufficient, and cannot fail. 

Each who passes is considered, each who stops is consider'd, not 
a single one can it fail. 

It cannot fail the young man who died and was buried, 

Nor the young woman who died and was put by his side. 

Nor the little child that peep'd in at the door, and then drew back 

and was never seen again. 
Nor the old man who has lived without purpose, and feels it with 

bitterness worse than gall. 
Nor him in the poor house tubercled by rum and the bad dis- 
Nor the numberless slaughter'd and wreck'd, nor the brutish koboo 

call'd the ordure of humanity. 
Nor the sacs merely floating with open mouths for food to slip in, 
Nor any thing in the earth, or down in the oldest graves of the 

Song of Myself. yi 

Nor 'any thing in the myriads of spheres, nor the myriads of 

myriads that inhabit them, 
Nor the present, nor the least wisp that is known. 

It is time to explain myself — let us stand up. 

What is known I strip away, 

I launch all men and women forward with me into the Unknown.. 

The clock indicates the moment — but what does eternity indicate ? 

We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers, 
There are trilHons ahead, and trillions ahead of them. 

Births have brought us richness and variety. 

And other births will bring us richness and variety, 

I do not call one greater and one smaller. 

That which fills its period and place is equal to any. 

Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you, my brother, my 

I am sorry for you, they are not murderous or jealous upon me. 
All has been gentle with me, I keep no account with lamentation, 
(What have I to do with lamentation ?) 

I am an acme of things accomplish'd, and I an encloser of things 
to be. 

My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs. 

On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the 

All below duly travePd, and still I mount and mount. 

Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me, 
Afar down I see the huge first Nothing, I know I was even there, 
I waited unseen and always, and slept through the lethargic mist. 
And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid carbon. 

Long I was hugg'd close — long and long. 

Immense have been the preparations for me. 
Faithful and friendly the arms that have helped me. 

T2 Leaves of Grass. 

Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatmen, 
For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings, 
They sent influences to look after what was to hold me. 

Before I was born out of my mother generations guided me, 
My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could overlay it. 

For it the nebula cohered to an orb, 
The long slow strata piled to rest it on, 
Vast vegetables gave it sustenance. 

Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths and deposited 
it with care. 

All forces have been steadily employed to complete and delight me, 
Now on this spot I stand with my robust soul. 


O span of youth ! ever-push'd elasticity ! 

manhood, balanced, florid and full 

My lovers suffocate me, 

Crowding my lips, thick in the pores of my skin, 

Jostling me through streets and public halls, coming naked to me 

at night. 
Crying by day Ahoy! from the rocks of the river, swinging and 

chirping over my head. 
Calling my name from flower-beds, vines, tangled underbrush, 
Lighting on every moment of my Hfe, 
Bussing my body with soft balsamic busses. 
Noiselessly passing handfuls out of their hearts and giving them 

to be mine. 

Old age superbly rising ! O welcome, ineffable grace of dying 
days ! 

Every condition promulges not only itself, it promulges what grows 

after and out of itself. 
And the dark hush promulges as much as any. 

1 open my scuttle at night and see the far-sprinkled systems, 
And all I see multiplied as high as I can cipher edge but the rim 

of the farther systems. 

Wider and wider they spread, expanding, always expanding. 
Outward and outward and forever outward. 

Song of Myself. 73 

My sun has his sun and round him obediently wheels, 
He joins with his partners a group of superior circuit, 
And greater sets follow, making specks of the greatest inside them. 

There is no stoppage and never can be stoppage. 

If I, you, and the worlds, and all beneath or upon their surfaces, 

were this moment reduced back to a pallid float, it would 

not avail in the long run, 
We should surely bring up again where we now stand, 
And surely go as much farther, and then farther and farther. 

A few quadrillions of eras, a few octilhons of cubic leagues, do not 

hazard the span or make it impatient, 
They are but parts, any thing is but a part. 

See ever so far, there is limitless space outside of that, 
Count ever so much, there is Hmidess time around that. 

My rendezvous is appointed, it is certain, 

The Lord will be there and wait till I come on perfect terms. 

The great Camerado, the lover true for whom I pine will be there. 


I know I have the best of time and space, and was never measured 
and never will be measured. 

I tramp a perpetual journey, (come listen all !) 

My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from 

the woods. 
No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair, 
I have no chair, no church, no philosophy, 
I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, exchange. 
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll, 
My left hand hooking you round the waist. 
My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public 


Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you, 
You must travel it for yourself. 

It is not far, it is within reach. 

Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did npt 

Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land. 

74 Leaves of Grass. 

Shoulder your duds dear son, and I will mine, and let us hasten 

Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go. 

If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff of your hand 

on my hip. 
And in due time you shall repay the same service to me, 
For after we start we never lie by again. 

This day before dawn I ascended a hill and look'd at the crowded 

And I said to my spirit When we become the enfoldeis of those 

orbs, and the pleasure aiid knowledge of every thing in 

them, shall we be filPd and satisfied then ? 
And my spirit said No, we but level that lift to pass and continue 


You are also asking me questions and I hear you, 

I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself. 

Sit a while dear son, 

Here are biscuits to eat and here is milk to drink. 

But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in sweet clothes, I 

kiss you with a good-by kiss and open the gate for your 

egress hence. 

Long enough have you dream'd contemptible dreams. 
Now I wash the gum from your eyes. 

You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every 
moment of your life. 

Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore. 
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer. 

To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to m.e, shout, 
and laughingly dash with your hair. 

I am the teacher of athletes. 
He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own proves the 

width of my own. 
He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the 


The boy I love, the same becomes a man not through derived 
power, but in his own right. 

Song of Myself. 75 

Wicked rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear, 

Fond of his sweetheart, relishing well his steak, 

Unrequited love or a slight cutting him worse than sharp steel 

First-rate to ride, to fight, to hit the bull's eye, to sail a skiff, to 

sing a song or play on the banjo. 
Preferring scars and the beard and faces pitted with small-pox 

over all latherers. 
And those well-tann'd to those that keep out of the sun. 

I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from me? 
I follow you whoever you are from the present hour, 
My words itch at your ears till you understand them. 

I do not say these things for a dollar or to fill up the time while I 

wait for a boat, 
(It is you talking just as much as myself, I act as the tongue of 

Tied in your mouth, in mine it begins to be loosen'd.) 

I swear I will never again mention love or death inside a house, 
And I swear I will never translate myself at all, only to him or her 
who privately stays with me in the open air. 

If you would understand me go to the heights or water-shore. 
The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or motion of waves 

a key. 
The maul, the oar, the hand-saw, second my words. 

No shutter'd room or school can commune with me, 
But roughs and little children better than they. 

The young mechanic is closest to me, he knows me well. 

The woodman that takes his axe and jug with him shall take me 

with him all day, 
The farm-boy ploughing in the field feels good at the sound of my 

In vessels that sail my words sail, I go with fishermen and seamen 

and love them. 

The soldier camp'd or upon the march is mine. 

On the night ere the pending batde many seek me, and I do not 

fail them. 
On that solemn night (it may be their last) those that know me 

seek me. 

76 Lea FES OF Geass. 

My face rubs to the hunter's face when he Hes down alone in his 

The driver thinking of me does not mind the jolt of his wagon, 
The young mother and old mother comprehend me, 
The girl and the wife rest the needle a moment and forget where 

they are, 
They and all would resume what I have told them. 

I have said that the soul is not more than the body, 

And I have said that the body is not more than the soul, 

And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one's self is, 

And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own 

funeral drest in his shroud. 
And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the 

And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds 

the learning of all times. 
And there is no trade or employment but the young man following 

it may become a hero, 
And there is no object so soft but it makes a^hub for the wheel'd 

And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and 

composed before a milKon universes. 

And I say to mankind. Be not curious about God, 
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God, 
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God 
and about death.) 

I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not 

in the least. 
Nor do I understand who there, can be more wonderful than 


Why should I wish to see God better than this day? 

I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each 

moment then. 
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in 

the glass, 
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd 

by God's name, 
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go. 
Others will punctually come for ever and ever. 

SoN-G OF Myself, yy 


And as to you Death, and you bitter hug of mortality, it is idle to 
try to alarm me. 

To his work without flinching the accoucheur comes, 
I see the elder-hand pressing receiving supporting, 
I recline by the sills of the exquisite flexible doors. 
And mark the outlet, and mark the relief and escape. 

And as to you Corpse I think you are good manure, but that does 

not offend me, 
I smell the white roses sweet-scented and growing, 
I reach to the leafy lips, I reach to the pohsh'd breasts of melons. 

And as to you Life I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths, 
(No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before.) 

I hear you whispering there O stars of heaven, 

suns — O grass of graves — O perpetual transfers and pro- 

If you do not say any thing how can I say any thing? 

Of the turbid pool that hes in the autumn forest. 

Of the moon that descends the steeps of the soughing twilight, 

Toss, sparkles of day and dusk — toss on the black stems that 

decay in the muck. 
Toss to the moaning gibberish of the dry limbs. 

1 ascend from the moon, I ascend from the night, 

I perceive that the ghastly glimmer is noonday sunbeams reflected, 
And debouch to the steady and central from the oflspring great or 


There is that in me — I do not know what it is — but I know it is 
in me. 

Wrench'd and sweaty — calm and cool then my body becomes, 
I sleep — I sleep long. 

I do not know it — it is without name — it is a word unsaid, 
It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol. 

Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on, 
To it the creation is the friend whose embracing awakes me. 

78 Leaves of Grass, 

Perhaps I might tell more. Outhnes ! I plead for my brothers 
and sisters. 

Do you see O my brothers and sisters ? 

It is not chaos or death — it is form, union, plan — it is eternal 
life — it is Happiness. 


The past and present wilt — I have fill'd them, emptied them, 
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future. 

Listener up there ! what have you to confide to me ? 
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening, 
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute 

Do I contradict myself? 

Very well then I contradict myself, 

(I am large, I contain multitudes.) 

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab. 

Who has done his day's work ? who will soonest be through with 

his supper? 
Who wishes to walk with me ? 

Will you speak before I am gone ? will you prove already too late ? 


The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me^ he complains of my 
gab and my loitering. 

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, 
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. 

The last scud of day holds back for me, 

It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadowed 

It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk. 

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun, 
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags. 

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, 
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles. 

Children of Adam. 79 

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, 
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, 
And filter and fibre your blood. 

FaiUng to fetch me at first keep encouraged, 
Missing me one place search another, 
I stop somewhere waiting for you. 



To the garden the world anew ascending, 

Potent mates, daughters, sons, preluding, 

The love, the life of their bodies, meaning and being, 

Curious here behold my resurrection after slumber. 

The revolving cycles in their wide sweep having brought me again, 

Amorous, mature, all beautiful to me, all wondrous. 

My limbs and the quivering fire that ever plays through them, for 

reasons, most wondrous, 
Existing I peer and penetrate still. 
Content with the present, content with the past. 
By my side or back of me Eve following. 
Or in front, and I following her just the same. 


From pent-up aching rivers, 

From that of myself without which I were nothing, 

From what I am determin'd to make illustrious, even if I stand 

sole among men. 
From my own voice resonant, singing the phallus. 
Singing the song of procreation. 
Singing the need of superb children and therein superb grown 

Singing the muscular urge and the blending. 
Singing the bedfellow's song, (O resistless yearning ! 
O for any and each the body correlative attracting ! 


for you whoever you are your correlative body ! it, more than 

all else, you delighting !) 
From the hungry gnaw that eats me night and day, 
From native moments, from bashful pains, singing them. 
Seeking something yet unfound though I have diligently sought it 

many a long year. 
Singing the true song of the soul fitful at random, 
Renascent with grossest Nature or among animals, 
Of that, of them and what goes with them my poems informing, 
Of the smell of apples and lemons, of the pairing of birds. 
Of the wet of woods, of the lapping of waves, 
Of the mad pushes of waves upon the land, I them chanting, 
The overture lightly sounding, the strain anticipating. 
The welcome nearness, the sight of the perfect body. 
The swimmer swimming naked in the bath, or motionless on his 

back lying and floating, 
The female form approaching, I pensive, love-flesh tremulous 

The divine list for myself or you or for any one making. 
The face, the limbs, the index from head to foot, and what it 

The mystic deliria, the madness amorous, the utter abandonment, 
(Hark close and still what I now whisper to you, 

1 love you, O you entirely possess me, 

O that you and I escape from the rest and go utterly off, free and 

Two hawks in the air, two fishes swimming in the sea not more 

lawless than we ;) 
The furious storm through me careering, I passionately trembling. 
The oath of the inseparableness of two together, of the woman 

that loves me and whom I love more than my life, that oath 

(0 1 wiUingly stake all for you, 
O let me be lost if it must be so ! 

O you and I ! what is it to us what the rest do or think? 
What is all else to us? only that we enjoy each other and exhaust 

each other if it must be so ;) 
From the master, the pilot I yield the vessel to, 
The general commanding me, commanding all, from him permis- 
sion taking, 
From time the programme hastening, (I have loiter'd too long as 

it is,) 
From sex, from the warp and from the woof, 
From privacy, from frequent repinings alone, 
From plenty of persons near and yet the right person not near, 

Children of Adam. 8i 

From the soft sliding of hands over me and thrusting of fingers 

through my hair and beard, 
From the long sustain'd kiss upon the mouth or bosom, 
From the close pressure that makes me or any man drunk, fainting 

with excess. 
From what the divine husband knows, from the work of fatherhood, 
From exultation, victory and rehef, from the bedfellow's embrace 

in the night, 
From the act-poems of eyes, hands, hips and bosoms, 
From the cling of the trembling arm. 
From the bending curve and the clinch, 
From side by side the pliant coverlet off-throwing. 
From the one so unwilling to have me leave, and me just as un- 
willing to leave, 
(Yet a moment O tender waiter, and I return,) 
From the hour of shining stars and dropping dews, 
From the night a moment I emerging flitting out, 
Celebrate you act divine and you children prepared for, 
And you stalwart loins. 



I SING the body electric, 

The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them, 
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them, 
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the 

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal 

themselves ? 
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile 

the dead? 
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul ? 
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul ? 

The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body 

itself balks account, 
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect. 

The expression of the face balks account, 

But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his 

82 Leaves of Grass. 

It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his 
hips and wrists, 

It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and 
knees, dress does not hide him. 

The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and 

To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more, 

You hnger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoul- 

The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, 
the folds of their dress, their style as we pass in the street, 
the contour of their shape downwards. 

The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims 
through the transparent green-shine, or lies with his face 
up and rolls silently to and fro in the heave of the water. 

The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the 
horseman in his saddle. 

Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances, 
*The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner- 
kettles, and their wives waiting, 

The female soothing a child, the farmer's daughter in the garden 
or cow-yard. 

The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six 
horses through the crowd. 

The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty, 
good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sun- 
down afte^ work. 

The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance. 

The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blind- 
ing the eyes ; 

The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of mascu- 
line muscle through clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps, 

The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes 
suddenly again, and the listening on the alert. 

The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv'd 
neck and the counting ; 

Such-like I love — I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother's 
breast with the little child, 

Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with 
the firemen, and pause, listen, count. 


I knew a man, a common farmer, the father of five sons, 

And in them the fathers of sons, and in them the fathers of sons. 

Children of Adam. 83 

This man was of wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person, 
The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and 

beard, the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes, the 

richness and breadth of his mianners. 
These I used to go and visit him to see, he was wise also. 
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old, his sons were 

massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced, handsome, 
They and his daughters loved him, all who saw him loved him, 
They did not love him by allowance, they loved him with personal 

He drank water only, the blood show'd like scarlet through the 

clear-brown skin of his face. 
He was a frequent gunner and fisher, he sail'd his boat himself, 

he had a fine one presented to him by a ship-joiner, he 

had fowling-pieces presented to him by men that loved 

When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons to hunt or 

fish, you would pick him out as the most beautiful and 

vigorous of the gang. 
You would wish long and long to be with him, you would wish to 

sit by him in the boat that you and he might touch each 


I have perceiv'd that to be with those I like is enough, 
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough, 
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh 

is enough, 
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so 

lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this 

I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea. 

There is something in staying close to men and women and look- 
ing on them, and in the contact and odor of them, that 
■pleases the soul well. 

All things please the soul, but these please the soul well. 


This is the female form, 

A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot, 

It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction, 

I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless 

vapor, all falls aside but myself and it. 
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, and what was 

expected of heaven or fear'd of hell, are now consumed, 

84 Leaves of Grass. 

Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the response 
likewise ungovernable, 

Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands all dif- 
fused, mine too diffused. 

Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swell- 
ing and deliciously aching, 

Limitless hmpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of 
love, white-blow and delirious juice, 

Bridegroom night of love working surely and softly into the pros- 
trate dawn. 

Undulating into the wiUing and yielding day. 

Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh'd day. 

This the nucleus — after the child is born of woman, man is born 

of woman. 
This the bath of birth, this the merge of small and large, and the 

outlet again. 

Be not ashamed women, your privilege encloses the rest, and is the 

exit of the rest. 
You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul. 

The female contains all qualities and tempers them, 
She is in her place and moves with perfect balance, 
She is all things duly veil'd, she is both passive and active, 
She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons as well as 

As I see my soul reflected in Nature, 

As I see through a mist. One with inexpressible completeness, 

sanity, beauty, 
See the bent head and arms folded over the breast, the Female 

I see. 

The male is not less the soul nor more, he too is in his place, 

He too is all qualities, he is action and power. 

The flush of the known universe is in him. 

Scorn becomes him well, and appetite and defiance become him 

The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost, sorrow that is 

utmost become him well, pride is for him. 
The full-spread pride of man is calming and excellent to the soul, 
Knowledge becomes him, he likes it always, he brings every thing 

to the test of himself, 

Children of Adam. 85 

Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail he strikes 

soundings at last only here, 
(Where else does he strike soundings except here ?) 

The man's body is sacred and the woman's body is sacred, 

No matter who it is, it is sacred — is it the meanest one in the 

laborers' gang? 
Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the wharf? 
Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the well-off, just 

as much as you, 
Each has his or her place in the procession. 

(All is a procession, 

The universe is a procession with measured and perfect motion.) 

Do you know so much yourself that you call the meanest ignorant ? 

Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she 
has no right to a sight ? 

Do you think matter has cohered together from its diffuse float, 
and the soil is on the surface, and water runs and vegeta- 
tion sprouts. 

For you only, and not for him and her ? 

A man's body at auction, 
(For before the war I often go to the slave-mart and watch the 

I help the auctioneer, the sloven does not half know his business. 

Gentlemen look on this wonder, 

Whatever the bids of the bidders they cannot be high enough for it. 

For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years without one 

animal or plant. 
For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll'd. 

In this head the all-baffling brain. 

In it and below it the makings of heroes. 

Examine these limbs, red, black, or white, they are cunning in 

tendon and nerve. 
They shall be stript that you may see them. 

Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition, 

Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant backbone and neck, flesh not 

flabby, good-sized arms and legs. 
And wonders within there yet. 

86 Leaves of Grass, 

Within there runs blood, 

The same old blood ! the same red-running blood ! 

There swells and jets a heart, there all passions, desires, reachings, 

(Do you think they are not there because they are not express'd in 

parlors and lecture-rooms?) 

This is not only one man, this the father of those who shall be 

fathers in their turns, 
In him the start of populous states and rich repubhcs. 
Of him countless immortal lives with countless embodiments and 


How do you know who shall come from the offspring of his off- 
spring through the centuries ? 

(Who might you find you have come from yourself, if you could 
trace back through the centuries ?) 

A woman's body at auction, 

She too is not only herself, she is the teeming mother of mothers. 
She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates to the 

Have you ever loved the body of a woman ? 
Have you ever loved the body of a man ? 

Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations 
and times all over the earth ? 

If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred, 

And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of manhood 

And in man or woman a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is more 

beautiful than the most beautiful face. 


Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body ? or the 

fool that corrupted her own live body ? 
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves. 


my body ! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and 

women, nor the hkes of the parts of you, 

1 believe the hkes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the 

soul, (and that they are the soul,) 

Children of Adam. 87 

I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, and 
that they are my poems, 

Man's, woman's, child's, youth's, wife's, husband's, mother's, father's, 
young man's, young woman's poems. 

Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears. 

Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or 
sleeping of the lids, 

Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw- 

Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition. 

Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck- 

Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the 
ample side-round of the chest, 

Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm- 

Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger, 
finger-joints, finger-nails. 

Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast- 

Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone. 

Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man- 
balls, man-root. 

Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above, 

Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg, 

Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel ; 

All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your 
body or of any one's body, male or female. 

The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean. 

The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame, 

Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity. 

Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes 
from woman. 

The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping, 
love-looks, love-perturbations and risings. 

The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud. 

Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming, 

Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and 

The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the 

The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair. 

The curious sympathy one feels when feehng with the hand the 
naked meat of the body, 

The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out, 

88 Leaves of Grass, 

The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence down- 
ward toward the knees. 

The thin red jelUes within you or within me, the bones and the 
marrow in the bones, 

The exquisite reaHzation of health ; 

O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but 
of the soul, 

O I say now these are the soul ! 


A WOMAN waits for me, she contains all, nothing is lacking. 
Yet all were lacking if sex were lacking, or if the moisture of the 
right man were lacking. 

Sex contains all, bodies, souls. 

Meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations, 

Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal 

All hopes, benefactions, bestowals, all the passions, loves, beauties, 

delights of the earth, 
All the governments, judges, gods, followed persons of the earth, 
These are contain'd in sex as parts of itself and justifications of 


Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness 

of his sex, 
Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers. 

Now I will dismiss myself from impassive women, 

I will go stay with her who waits for me, and with those women 

that are warm-blooded and sufficient for me, 
I see that they understand me and do not deny me, 
I see that they are worthy of me, I will be the robust husband 

of those women. 

They are not one jot less than I am. 

They are tann'd in the face by shining suns and blowing winds, 

Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength, 

They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike, 

retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves, 
They are ultimate in their own right — they are calm, clear, well- 

possess'd of themselves. 

Children of Adam. 89 

I draw you close to me, you women, 

I cannot let you go, I would do you good, 

I am for you, and you are for me, not only for our own sake, but 

for others' sakes, 
Envelop'd in you sleep greater heroes and bards, 
They refuse to awake at the touch of any man but me. 

It is I, you women, I make my way, 

I am stern, acrid, large, undissuadable, but I love you, 

I do not hurt you any more than is necessary for you, 

I pour the stuff to start sons and daughters fit for these States, I 

press with slow rude muscle, 
I brace myself effectually, I listen to no entreaties, 
I dare not withdraw till I deposit what has so long accumulated 

within me. 

Through you I drain the pent-up rivers of myself, 

In you I wrap a thousand onward years. 

On you I graft the grafts of the best-beloved of me and America, 

The drops I distil upon you shall grow fierce and athletic girls, 

new artists, musicians, and singers, 
The babes I beget upon you are to beget babes in their turn, 
I shall demand perfect men and women out of my love-spendings, 
I shall expect them to interpenetrate with others, as I and you 

interpenetrate now, 
I shall count on the fruits of the gushing showers of them, as I 

count on the fruits of the gushing showers I give now, 
I shall look for loving crops from the birth, life, death, immortality, 

I plant so lovingly now. 


Spontaneous me. Nature, 

The loving day, the mounting sun, the friend I am happy with, 

The arm of my friend hanging idly over my shoulder. 

The hillside whiten'd with blossoms of the mountain ash. 

The same late in autumn, the hues of red, yellow, drab, purple, 

and light and dark green. 
The rich coverlet of the grass, animals and birds, the private 

untrimm'd bank, the primitive apples, the pebble-stones, 
Beautiful dripping fragments, the negligent list of one after an- 
other as I happen to call them to me or think of them. 
The real poems, (what we call poems being merely pictures,) 
The poems of the privacy of the night, and of men like me, 

go Leaves of Grass. 

This poem drooping shy and unseen that I always carry, and that 

all men carry, 
(Know once for all, avow'd on purpose, wherever are men like 

me, are our lusty lurking mascuHne poems,) 
Love- thoughts, love-juice, love-odor, love-yielding, love-chmbers, 

and the climbing sap, 
Arms and hands of love, lips of love, phallic thumb of love, breasts 

of love, bellies press'd and glued together with love, 
Earth of chaste love, life that is only life after love. 
The body of my love, the body of the woman I love, the body 

of the man, the body of the earth, 
Soft forenoon airs that blow from the south-west, 
The hairy wild-bee that murmurs and hankers up and down, that 

gripes the full-grown lady-flower, curves upon her with 

amorous firm legs, takes his will of her, and holds himself 

tremulous and tight till he is satisfied ; 
The wet of woods through the early hours, 
Two sleepers at night lying close together as they sleep, one with an 

arm slanting down across and below the waist of the other. 
The smell of apples^ aromas from crush'd sage-plant, mint, birch- 
The boy's longings, the glow and pressure as he confides to me 

what he was dreaming. 
The dead leaf whirling its spiral whirl and falling still and content 

to the ground, 
The no-form'd stings that sights, people, objects, sting me with. 
The hubb'd sting of myself, stinging me as much as it ever can 

any one, 
The sensitive, orbic, underlapp'd brothers, that only privileged 

feelers may be intimate where they are, 
The curious roamer the hand roaming all over the body, the 

bashful withdrawing of flesh where the fingers soothingly 

pause and edge themselves. 
The limpid liquid within the young man. 
The vex'd corrosion so pensive and so painful. 
The torment, the irritable tide that will not be at rest, 
The like of the same I feel, the like of the same in others. 
The young man that flushes and flushes, and the young woman 

that flushes and flushes, 
The young man that wakes deep at night, the hot hand seeking to 

repress what would master him. 
The mystic amorous night, the strange half- welcome pangs, visions, 

The pulse pounding through palms and trembling encircling 

fingers, the young man all color'd, red, ashamed, angry ; 

Children of Adam. 91 

The souse upon me of my lover the sea, as I lie willing and naked, 
The merriment of the twin babes that crawl over the grass in the 

sun, the mother never turning her vigilant eyes from them, 
The walnut-trunk, the walnut-husks, and the ripening or ripen'd 

long-round walnuts, 
The continence of vegetables, birds, animals, 
The consequent meanness of me should 1 skulk or find myself 

indecent, while birds and animals never once skulk or 

find themselves indecent. 
The great chastity of paternity, to match the great chastity of 

The oath of procreation I have sworn, my Adamic and fresh 

The greed that eats me day and night with hungry gnaw, till I 

saturate what shall produce boys to fill my place when I 

am through. 
The wholesome relief, repose, content. 
And this bunch pluck'd at random from myself, 
It has done its work — I toss it carelessly to fall where it may. 


One hour to madness and joy ! O furious ! O confine me not ! 

(What is this that frees me so in storms ? 

What do my shouts amid lightnings and raging winds mean ?) 

O to drink the mystic deliria deeper than any other man ! 

savage and tender achings ! (I bequeath them to you my 


1 tell them to you, for reasons, O bridegroom and bride.) 

O to be yielded to you whoever you are, and you to be yielded to 

me in defiance of the world ! 
O to return to Paradise ! O bashful and feminine ! 
O to draw you to me, to plant on you for the first time the lips of 

a determined man. 

O the puzzle, the thrice-tied knot, the deep and dark pool, all 

untied and illumin'd ! 
O to speed where there is space enough and air enough at last ! 
To be absolv'd from previous ties and conventions, I from mine 

and you from yours ! 
To find a new unthought-of nonchalance with the best of Nature I 

92 Leaves of Grass. 

To have the gag remov'd from one's mouth ! 

To have the feeling to-day or any day I am sufficient as I am. 

O something unprov'd ! something in a trance ! 

To escape utterly from others' anchors and holds ! 

To drive free ! to love free ! to dash reckless and dangerous ! 

To court destruction with taunts, with invitations ! 

To ascend, to leap to the heavens of the love indicated to me ! 

To rise thither with my inebriate soul ! 

To be lost if it must be so ! 

To feed the remainder of life with one hour of fulness and freedom ! 

With one brief hour of madness and joy. 


Out of the rolling ocean the crowd came a drop gently to me, 

Whispering / love you, before long I die, 

I have travel' d a long way 7?ierely to look on you to touch you, 

For I could not die till I once look'd on you, 

For I fear' d I might afterward lose you. 

Now we have met, we have look'd, we are safe, 

Return in peace to the ocean my love, 

I too am part of that ocean my love, we are not so much sepa- 

Behold the great rondure, the cohesion of all, how perfect ! 

But as for me, for you, the irresistible sea is to separate us. 

As for an hour carrying us diverse, yet cannot carry us diverse for- 
ever ; 

Be not impatient — a little space — know you I salute the air, the 
ocean and the land. 

Every day at sundown for your dear sake my love. 


Ages and ages returning at intervals, 

Undestroy'd, wandering immortal. 

Lusty, phaUic, with the potent original loins, perfectly sweet, 

I, chanter of Adamic songs. 

Through the new garden the West, the great cities calling, 

Deliriate, thus prelude what is generated, offering these, offering 

Bathing myself, bathing my songs in Sex, 
Offspring of my loins. 

Children of Adam. 93 


We two, how long we were fool'd, 

Now transmuted, we swiftly escape as Nature escapes, 

We are Nature, long have we been absent, but now we return, 

We become plants, trunks, foliage, roots, bark, 

We are bedded in the ground, we are rocks, 

We are oaks, we grow in the openings side by side. 

We browse, we are two among the wild herds spontaneous as 

We are two fishes swimming in the sea together, 
We are what locust blossoms are, we drop scent around lanes 

mornings and evenings. 
We are also the coarse smut of beasts, vegetables, minerals, 
We are two predatory hawks, we soar above and look down, 
We are two resplendent suns, we it is who balance ourselves orbic 

and stellar, we are as two comets. 
We prowl fang'd and four-footed in the woods, we spring on 

We are two clouds forenoons and afternoons driving overhead, 
We are seas mingling, we are two of those cheerful waves rolling 

over each other and interwetting each other, 
We are what the atmosphere is, transparent, receptive, pervious, 

We are snow, rain, cold, darkness, we are each product and 

influence of the globe. 
We have circled and circled till we have arrived home again, we 

We have voided all but freedom and all but our own joy. 


O HYMEN ! O hymenee ! why do you tantalize me thus ? 
O why sting me for a swift moment only ? 
Why can you not continue ? O why do you now cease ? 
Is it because if you continued beyond the swift moment you 
would soon certainly kill me ? 


I AM he that aches with amorous love ; 

Does the earth gravitate? does not all matter, aching, attract all 

matter ? 
So the body of me to all I meet or know. 

94 Leaves of Grass. 


Native moments — when you come upon me — ah you are here 

Give me now hbidinous joys only, 

Give me the drench of my passions, give me hfe coarse and rank, 
To-day I go consort with Nature's darHngs, to-night too, 
I am for those who beheve in loose delights, I share the midnight 

orgies of young men, 
I dance with the dancers and drink with the drinkers. 
The echoes ring with our indecent calls, I pick out some low 

person for my dearest friend, 
He shall be lawless, rude, illiterate, he shall be one condemned by 

others for deeds done, 
I will play a part no longer, why should I exile myself from my 

companions ? 

you shunn'd persons, I at least do not shun you, 

1 come forthwith in your midst, I will be your poet, 
I will be more to you than to any of the rest. 


Once I passed through a populous city imprinting my brain for 
future use with its shows, architecture, customs, traditions, 

Yet now of all that city I remember only a woman I casually met 
there who detain'd me for love of me. 

Day by day and night by night we were together — all else has 
long been forgotten by me, 

I remember I say only that woman who passionately clung to me, 

Again we wander, we love, we separate again. 

Again she holds me by the hand, I must not go, 

I see her close beside me with silent hps sad and tremulous. 


I HEARD you solemn-sweet pipes of the organ as last Sunday morn 

I pass'd the church. 
Winds of autumn, as I walk'd the woods at dusk I heard your 

long-stretch'd sighs up above so mournful, 
I heard the perfect Italian tenor singing at the opera, I heard the 

soprano in the midst of the quartet singing ; 
Heart of my love ! you too I heard murmuring low through one 

of the wrists around my head. 
Heard the pulse of you when all was still ringing little bells last 

night under my ear. 

Calamus, 95 


Facing west from California's shores, 

Inquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound, 

I, a child, very old, over waves, towards the house of maternity, 

the land of migrations, look afar. 
Look off the shores of my Western sea, the circle almost circled ; 
For starting westward from Hindustan, from the vales of Kash- 

From Asia, from the north, from the God, the sage, and the 

From the south, from the flowery peninsulas and the spice islands, 
Long having wander'd since, round the earth having wander'd, 
Now I face home again, very pleas'd and joyous, 
(But where is what I started for so long ago ? 
And why is it yet unfound ?) 


As Adam early in the morning, 

Walking forth from the bower refresh'd with sleep. 

Behold me where I pass, hear my voice, approach, 

Touch me, touch the palm of your hand to my body as I pass, 

Be not afraid of my body. 



In paths untrodden, 

In the growth by margins of pond-waters, 

Escaped from the hfe that exhibits itself, 

From all the standards hitherto publish'd, from the pleasures, 

profits, conformities. 
Which too long I was offering to feed my soul. 
Clear to me now standards not yet pubHsh'd, clear to me that my 

That the soul of the man I speak for rejoices in comrades, 
Here by myself away from the clank of the world, 
Tallying and talk'd to here by tongues aromatic, 

96 Leaves of Grass. 

No longer abashed, (for in this secluded spot I can respond as I 

would not dare elsewhere,) 
Strong upon me the hfe that does not exhibit itself, yet contains 

all the rest, 
Resolv'd to sing no songs to-day but those of manly attachment. 
Projecting them along that substantial life, 
Bequeathing hence types of athletic love, 
Afternoon this delicious Ninth-month in my forty-first year, 
I proceed for all who are or have been young men, 
To tell the secret of my nights and days. 
To celebrate the need of comrades. 


Scented herbage of my breast^ 

Leaves from you I glean, I write, to be perused best afterwards, 
Tomb-leaves, body-leaves growing up above me above death. 
Perennial roots, tall leaves, O the winter shall not freeze you 

dehcate leaves. 
Every year shall you bloom again, out from where you retired you 

shall emerge again ; 
O I do not know whether many passing by will discover you or 

mhale your faint odor, but I believe a few will ; 
O slender leaves ! O blossoms of my blood ! I permit you to tell 

in your own way of the heart that is under you, 
O I do not know what you mean there underneath yourselves, you 

are not happiness. 
You are often more bitter than I can bear, you burn and sting me, 
Yet you are beautiful to me you famt tinged roots, you make me 

think of death. 
Death is beautiful from you, (what indeed is finally beautiful except 

death and love ?) 
O I think it is not for life I am chanting here my chant of lovers, 

I think it must be for death, 
For how calm, how solemn it grows to ascend to the atmosphere 

of lovers, 
Death or life I am then indifferent, my soul dechnes to prefer, 
(I am not sure but the high soul of lovers welcomes death most,) 
Indeed O death, I think now these leaves mean precisely the same 

as you mean, 
Grow up taller sweet leaves that I may see ! grow up out of my 

breast ! 
Spring away from the conceal'd heart there ! 
Do not fold yourself so in your pink-tinged roots timid leaves 1 

Calamus. 97 

Do not remain down there so ashamed, herbage of my breast ! 
Come I am determin'd to unbare this broad breast of mine, I 

have long enough stifled and choked ; 
Emblematic and capricious blades I leave you, now you serve me 

I will say what I have to say by itself, 
I will sound myself and comrades only, I will never again utter a 

call only their call, 
I will raise with it immortal reverberations through the States, 
I will give an example to lovers to take permanent shape and 

will through the States, 
Through me shall the words be said to make death exhilarating, 
Give me your tone therefore O death, that I may accord with it, 
Give me yourself, for I see that you belong to me now above all, 

and are folded inseparably together, you love and death are. 
Nor will I allow you to balk me any more with what-Iwas calling life, 
For now it is conveyed to me that you are the purports essential. 
That you hide in these shifting forms of life, for reasons, and that 

they are mainly for you, 
That you beyond them come forth to remain, the real reality, 
That behind the mask of materials you patiently wait, no matter 

how long. 
That you will one day perhaps take control of all. 
That you will perhaps dissipate this entire show of appearance, 
That may-be you are what it is all for, but it does not last so very 

But you will last very long. 


Whoever you are holding me now in hand. 
Without one thing all will be useless, 
I give you fair warning before you attempt me further, 
I am not what you supposed, but far different. 

Who is he that would become my follower? 

iVho would sign himself a candidate for my affections? 

The way is suspicious, the result uncertain, perhaps destructive. 
You would have to give up all else, I alone would expect to be 

your sole and exclusive standard. 
Your novitiate would even then be long and exhausting. 
The whole past theory of your life and all conformity to the lives 

around you would have to be abandoned, 

98 Leaves of Grass. 

Therefore release me now before troubling yourself any further, let 

go your hand from my shoulders, 
Put me down and depart on your way. 

Or else by stealth in some wood for trial, 

Or back of a rock in the open air, 

(For in any roof'd room of a house I emerge not, nor in com- 

And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, or dead,) 

But just possibly with you on a high hill, first watching lest any 
person for miles around approach unawares, 

Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach of the sea or 
some quiet island. 

Here to put your Hps upon mine I permit you, 

With the comrade's long-dwelling kiss or the new husband's kiss. 

For I am the new husband and I am the comrade. 

Or if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing. 

Where I may feel the throbs of your heart or rest upon your 

Carry me when you go forth over land or sea ; 
For thus merely touching you is enough, is best. 
And thus touching you would I silently sleep and be carried 


But these leaves conning you con at peril. 

For these leaves and me you will not understand. 

They will elude you at first and still more afterward, I will 

certainly elude you, 
Even while you should think you had unquestionably caught me, 

behold ! 
Already you see I have escaped from you. 

For it is not for what I have put into it that I have written this 

Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it. 
Nor do those know me best who admire me and vauntingly praise 

Nor will the candidates for my love (unless at most a very few) 

prove victorious. 
Nor will my poems do good only, they will do just as much evil, 

perhaps more. 
For all is useless without that which you may guess at many times 

and not hit, that which I hinted at ; 
Therefore release me and depart on your way. 

Calamus. 99 


Come, I will make the continent indissoluble, 

I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon, 

I will make divine magnetic lands, 

With the love of comrades. 

With the life-long love of comrades. 

I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of 
America, and along the shores of the great lakes, and all 
over the prairies, 
I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other's 

By the love of comrades. 

By the manly love of comrades. 

For you these from me, O Democracy, to serve you ma femme ! 
For you, for you I am trilling these songs. 


These I singing in spring collect for lovers, 

(For who but I should understand lovers and all their sorrow and 

And who but I should be the poet of comrades ?) 
Collecting I traverse the garden the world, but soon I pass the 

Now along the pond-side, now wading in a little, fearing not the 

Now by the post-and-rail fences where the old stones thrown there, 

pick'd from the fields, have accumulated, 
(Wild-flowers and vines and weeds come up through the stones 

and partly cover them, beyond these I pass,) 
Far, far in the forest, or sauntering later in summer, before I think 

where I go. 
Solitary, smelling the earthy smell, stopping now and then in the 

Alone I had thought, yet soon a troop gathers around me. 
Some walk by my side and some behind, and some embrace my 

arms or neck. 
They the spirits of dear friends dead or alive, thicker they come, 

a great crowd, and I in the middle, 
Collecting, dispensing, singing, there I wander with them, 
Plucking something for tokens, tossing toward whoever is near rne^ 
Here, lilac, with a branch of pine. 

lOO Leaves of Grass. 

Here, out of my pocket, some moss which I piiU'd off a live-oak 

in Florida as it hung traiHng down, 
Here, some pinks and laurel leaves, and a handful of sage, 
And here what I now draw from the water, wading in the pond- 
(O here I last saw him that tenderly loves me, and returns again 

never to separate from me. 
And this, O this shall henceforth be the token of comrades, this 

calamus-root shall, 
Interchange it youths with each other ! let none render it back !) 
And twigs of maple and a bunch of wild orange and chestnut, 
And stems of currants and plum- blows, and the aromatic cedar, 
These I compass'd around by a thick cloud of spirits, 
Wandering, point to or touch as I pass, or throw them loosely 

from me, 
Indicating to each one what he shall have, giving something to 

each ; 
But what I drew from the water by the pond-side, that I reserve, 
I will give of it, but only to them that love as I myself am capable 

of loving. 


Not heaving from my ribb'd breast only, 

Not in sighs at night in rage dissatisfied with myself, 

Not in those long-drawn, ill-supprest sighs. 

Not in many an oath and promise broken. 

Not in my wilful and savage soul's volition, 

Not in the subtle nourishment of the air, 

Not in this beating and pounding at my temples and wrists, 

Not in the curious systole and diastole within which will one day 

Not in many a hungry wish told to the skies only, 
Not in cries, laughter, defiances, thrown from me when alone far 

in the wilds. 
Not in husky pantings through clinch'd teeth, 
Not in sounded and resounded words, chattering words, echoes, 

dead words. 
Not in the murmurs of my dreams while I sleep. 
Nor the other murmurs of these incredible dreams of every day, 
Nor in the limbs and senses of my body that take you and dismiss 

you continually — not there, 
Not in any or all of them O adhesiveness ! O pulse of my life ! 
Need I that you exist and show yourself any more than in these 


Calamus. ioi 


Of the terrible doubt of appearances, 

Of the uncertainty after all, that we may be deluded, 

That may-be reliance and hope are but speculations after all, 

That may-be identity beyond the grave is a beautiful fable only, 

May-be the things I perceive, the animals, plants, men, hills, 

shining and flowing waters, 
The skies of day and night, colors, densities, forms, may-be these 

are (as doubdess they are) only apparitions, and the real 

something has yet to be known, 
(How often they dart out of themselves as if to confound me and 

mock me ! 
How often I think neither I know, nor any man knows, aught of 

May-be seeming to me what they are (as doubtless they indeed 

but seem) as from my present point of view, and might 

prove (as of course they would) nought of what they 

appear, or nought anyhow, from entirely changed points 

of view ; 
To me these and the like of these are curiously answer'd by my 

lovers, my dear friends, 
When he whom I love travels with me or sits a long while holding 

me by the hand, 
When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that words and 

reason hold not, surround us and pervade us. 
Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom, I am 

silent, I require nothing further, 
I cannot answer the question of appearances or that of identity 

beyond the grave. 
But I walk or sit indifferent, I am satisfied. 
He ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me. 


And now gentlemen, 

A word I give to remain in your memories and minds, 

As base and finale too for all metaphysics. 

(So to the students the old professor, 
At the close of his crowded course.) 

Having studied the new and antique, the Greek and Germanic 

Kant having studied and stated, Fichte and Schelling and Hegel, 

102 Leaves of Grass. 

Stated the lore of Plato, and Socrates greater than Plato, 

And greater than Socrates sought and stated, Christ divine having 

studied long, 
I see reminiscent to-day those Greek and Germanic systems, 
See the philosophies all, Christian churches and tenets see. 
Yet underneath Socrates clearly see, and underneath Christ the 

divine I see. 
The dear love of man for his comrade, the attraction of friend to 

Of the well-married husband and wife, of children and parents, 
Of city for city and land for land. 


Recorders ages hence. 

Come, I will take you down underneath this impassive exterior, I 
will tell you what to say of me. 

Publish my name and hang up my picture as that of the tenderest 

The friend the lover's portrait, of whom his friend his lover was 

Who was not proud of his songs, but of the measureless ocean of 
love within him, and freely pour'd it forth, 

Who often walk'd lonesome walks thinking of his dear friends, his 

Who pensive away from one he lov'd often lay sleepless and dissat- 
isfied at night. 

Who knew too well the sick, sick dread lest the one he lov'd 
might secretly be indifferent to him. 

Whose happiest days were far away through fields, in woods, on 
hills, he and another wandering hand in hand, they twain 
apart from other men. 

Who oft as he saunter'd the streets curv'd with his arm the shoul- 
der of his friend, while the arm of his friend rested upon 
him also. 


When I heard at the close of the day how my name had been 
receiv'd with plaudits in the capitol, still it was not a happy 
night for me that follow'd. 

And else when I carous'd, or when my plans were accomplish'd, 
still I was not happy, 

Calamus. 1 03 

But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health, 

refresh'd, singing, inhahng the ripe breath of autumn, 
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear in 

the morning light. 
When I wander'd alone over the beach, and undressing bathed, 

laughing with the cool waters, and saw the sun rise, 
And when I thought how my dear friend my lover was on his way 

coming, O then I was happy, 

then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my food 

nourish'd me more, and the beautiful day pass'd well. 
And the next came with equal joy, and with the next at evening 

came my friend. 
And that night while all was still I heard the waters roll slowly 

continually up the shores, 

1 heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as directed to 

me whispering to congratulate me, 
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover 

in the cool night. 
In the stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was inclined 

toward me. 
And his arm lay lightly around my breast — and that night I was 



Are you the new person drawn toward me ? 

To begin with take warning, I am surely far different from what 

you suppose ; 
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal ? 
Do you think it so e^tsy to have me become your lover? 
Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy'd satisfaction ? 
Do you think I am trusty and faithful ? 
Do you see no further than this fagade, this smooth and tolerant 

manner of me ? 
Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real 

heroic man? 
Have you no thought O dreamer that it may be all maya, illusion? 


Roots and leaves themselves alone are these. 
Scents brought to men and women from the wild woods and 

I04 Leaves of Grass. 

Breast-sorrel and pinks of love, fingers that wind around tighter 

than vines, 
Gushes from the throats of birds hid in the foliage of trees as the 

sun is risen, 
Breezes of land and love set from hving shores to you on the living 

sea, to you O sailors ! 
Frost-mellow'd berries and Third-month twigs offer'd fresh to 

young persons wandering out in the fields when the winter 

breaks up. 
Love-buds put before you and within you whoever you are, 
Buds to be unfolded on the old terms. 
If you bring the warmth of the sun to them they will open and 

bring form, color, perfume, to you. 
If you become the aliment and the wet they will become flowers, 

fruits, tall branches and trees. 


Not heat flames up and consumes, 

Not sea-waves hurry in and out. 

Not the air delicious and dry, the air of ripe summer, bears hghtly 
along white down-balls of myriads of seeds. 

Wafted, sailing gracefully, to drop where they may ; 

Not these, O none of these more than the flames of me, consum- 
ing, burning for his love whom I love, 

O none more than I hurrying in and out ; 

Does the tide hurry, seekhig something, and never give up? O I 
the same, 

O nor down-balls nor perfumes, nor the high rain-emitting clouds, 
are borne through the open air, ^ 

Any more than my soul is borne through the open air. 

Wafted in all directions O love, for friendship, for you. 


Trickle drops ! my blue veins leaving ! 

O drops of me ! trickle, slow drops. 

Candid from me falling, drip, bleeding drops. 

From wounds made to free you whence you were prison'd. 

From my face, from my forehead and lips, 

From my breast, from within where I was conceal'd, press forth 

red drops, confession drops, 
Stain every page, stain every song I sing, every word I say, bloody 


Calamus. 1 05 

Let them know your scarlet heat, let them glisten, 
Saturate them with yourself all ashamed and wet, 
Glow upon all I have written or shall write, bleeding drops, 
Let it all be seen in your light, blushing drops. 


City of orgies, walks and joys. 

City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst will one day 
make you illustrious, 

Not the pageants of you, not your shifting tableaus, your specta- 
cles, repay me. 

Not the interminable rows of your houses, nor the ships at the 

Nor the processions in the streets, nor the bright windows with 
goods in them, 

Nor to converse with learn'd persons, or bear my share in the soiree 
or feast ; 

Not those, but as I pass O Manhattan, your frequent and swift 
flash of eyes offering me love. 

Offering response to my own — these repay me, 

Lovers, continual lovers, only repay me. 


Behold this swarthy face, these gray eyes. 

This beard, the white wool unclipt upon my neck. 

My brown hands and the silent manner of me without charm ; 

Yet comes one a Manhattanese and ever at parting kisses me 

lightly on the lips with robust love. 
And I on the crossing of the street or on the ship's deck give a 

kiss in return. 
We observe that salute of American comrades land and sea, 
We are those two natural and nonchalant persons. 


I SAW in Louisiana a live-oak growing, 

All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches. 

Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves of 

dark green. 
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself. 
But I wonder'd how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone 

there without its friend near, for I knew I could not, 

lo6 Leaves of Grass. 

And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, 

and twined around it a little moss, 
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room, 
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends, 
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,) 
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly 

love ; 
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana 

solitary in a wide flat space, 
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near, 
I know very well I could not. 


Passing stranger ! you do not know how longingly I look upon 

You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to 

me as of a dream,) 
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you. 
All is recall'd as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, 

You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with me, 
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become not yours 

only nor left my body mine only, 
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass, you 

take of my beard, breast, hands, in return, 
I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone 

or wake at night alone, 
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again, 
I am to see to it that I do not lose you. 


This moment yearning and thoughtful sitting alone. 

It seems to me there are other men in other lands yearning and 

It seems to me I can look over and behold them in Germany, 

Italy, France, Spain, 
Or far, far away, in China, or in Russia or Japan, talking other 

And it seems to me if I could know those men I should become 

attached to them as I do to men in my own lands, 

I know we should be brethren and lovers, 

1 know I should be happy with them. 

Calamus. 107 


I HEAR it was charged against me that I sought to destroy institu- 

But really I am neither for nor against institutions, 

(What indeed have I in common with them? or what with the 
destruction of them?) 

Only I will establish in the Mannahatta and in every city of these 
States inland and seaboard, 

And in the fields and woods, and above every keel little or large 
that dents the water. 

Without edifices or rules or trustees or any argument, 

The institution of the dear love of comrades. 


The prairie-grass dividing, its special odor breathing, 

I demand of it the spiritual corresponding. 

Demand the most copious and close companionship of men, 

Demand the blades to rise of words, acts, beings, 

Those of the open atmosphere, coarse, sunlit, fresh, nutritious. 

Those that go their own gait, erect, stepping with freedom and 

command, leading not following. 
Those with a never-quell'd audacity, those with sweet and lusty 

flesh clear of taint. 
Those that look carelessly in the faces of Presidents and governors, 

as to say Who are you ? 
Those of earth-born passion, simple, never constrain'd, never 

Those of inland America. 


When I peruse the conquer'd fame of heroes and the victories 

of mighty generals, I do not envy the generals, 
Nor the President in his Presidency, nor the rich in his great 

But when I hear of the brotherhood of lovers, how it was with 

How together through life, through dangers, odium, unchanging, 

long and long, 
Through youth and through middle and old age, how unfaltering, 

how affectionate and faithful they were. 
Then I am pensive — I hastily walk away fill'd with the bitterest 


io8 Leaves of Grass. 


We two boys together clinging, 

One the other never leaving, 

Up and down the roads going. North and South excursions 

Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching, 

Arm'd and fearless, eating, drinking, sleeping, loving, 

No law less than ourselves owning, sailing, soldiering, thieving, 

Misers, menials, priests alarming, air breathing, water drinking, on 
the turf or the sea-beach dancing, 

Cities wrenching, ease scorning, statutes mocking, feebleness chas- 

Fulfilling our foray. 


A PROMISE to California, 

Or inland to the great pastoral Plains, and on to Puget sound and 

Oregon ; 
Sojourning east a while longer, soon I travel toward you, to remain, 

to teach robust American love, 
For I know very well that I and robust love belong among you, 

inland, and along the Western sea ; 
For these States tend inland and toward the Western sea, and I 

will also. 


Here the frailest leaves of me and yet my strongest lasting. 
Here I shade and hide my thoughts, I myself do not expose them, 
And yet they expose me more than all my other poems. 


No labor-saving machine, 

Nor discovery have I made. 

Nor will I be able to leave behind me any wealthy bequest to 

found a hospital or library. 
Nor reminiscence of any deed of courage for America, 
Nor literary success nor intellect, nor book for the book-shelf, 
But a few carols vibrating through the air I leave, 
For comrades and lovers. 

Calamus. 1 09 


A GLIMPSE through an interstice caught, 

Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room around the 

stove late of a winter night, and I unremark'd seated in a 

Of a youth who loves me and whom I love, silently approaching 

and seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand, 
A long while amid the noises of coming and going, of drinking 

and oath and smutty jest, 
There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little, 

perhaps not a word. 


A LEAF for hand in hand ; 

You natural persons old and young ! 

You on the Mississippi and on all the branches and bayous of the 

Mississippi ! 
You friendly boatmen and mechanics ! you roughs ! 
You twain ! and all processions moving along the streets ! 
I wish to infuse myself among you till I see it common for you to 

walk hand in hand. 


Earth, my likeness. 

Though you look so impassive, ample and spheric there, 
I now suspect that is not all ; 

I now suspect there is something fierce in you eligible to burst forth. 
For an athlete is enamour'd of me, and I of him. 
But toward him there is something fierce and terrible in me eligi- 
ble to burst forth, 
I dare not tell it in words, not even in these songs. 


I dream'd in a dream I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the 

whole of the rest of the earth, 
I dream'd that was the new city of Friends, 
Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love, it led 

the rest. 
It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that city, 
And in all their looks and words. 

no Leaves of Grass. 


What think you I take my pen in hand to record ? 

The battle-ship, perfect-model'd, majestic, that I saw pass the 

offing to-day under full sail ? 
The splendors of the past day? or the splendor of the night that 

envelops me ? 
Or the vaunted glory and growth of the great city spread around 

me ? — no ; 
But merely of two simple men I saw to-day on the pier in the 

midst of the crowd, parting the parting of dear friends. 
The one to remain hung on the other's neck and passionately 

kiss'd him, 
While the one to depart tightly prest the one to remain in his 



To the East and to the West, 

To the man of the Seaside State and of Pennsylvania, 

To the Kanadian of the north, to the Southerner I love, 

These with perfect trust to depict you as myself, the germs are in 

all men, 
I believe the main purport of these States is to found a superb 

friendship, exalte, previously unknown, 
Because I perceive it waits, and has been always waiting, latent in 

all men. 


Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse 

unreturn'd love, 
But now I think there is no unreturn'd love, the pay is certain one 

way or another, 
(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not return'd, 
Yet out of that I have written these songs.) 


Many things to absorb I teach to help you become eleve of mine ; 

Yet if blood like mine circle not in your veins. 

If you be not silently selected by lovers and do not silently select 

Of what use is it that you seek to become eleve of mine ? 

Calamus- hi 


Fast-anchor'd eternal O love ! O woman I love ! 

bride ! O wife ! more resistless than I can tell, the thought of 

you ! 
Then separate, as disembodied or another born, 
Ethereal, the last athletic reality, my consolation, 

1 ascend, I float in the regions of your love O man, 
O sharer of my roving life. 


Among the men and women the multitude, 

I perceive one picking me out by secret and divine signs. 

Acknowledging none else, not parent, wife, husband, brother, 

child, any nearer than I am, 
Some are baffled, but that one is not — that one knows me. 

Ah lover and perfect equal, 

I meant that you should discover me so by faint indirections. 

And 1 when I meet you mean to discover you by the hke in you. 


O YOU whom I often and silently come where you are that I may 

be with you, 
As I walk by your side or sit near, or remain in the same room 

with you, 
Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is play- 

mg within me. 


That shadow my likeness that goes to and fro seeking a liveli- 
hood, chattering, chaffering. 

How often I find myself standing and looking at it where it 

How often I question and doubt whether that is really me ; 

But among my lovers and caroling these songs, 

O I never doubt whether that is really me. 


Full of life now, compact, visible, 

I, forty years old the eighty-third year of the States, 

112 Leaves of Grass. 

To one a century hence or any number of centuries hence, 
To you yet unborn these, seeking you. 

When you read these I that was visible am become invisible, 
Now it is you, compact, visible, realizing my poems, seeking me, 
Fancying how happy you were if I could be with you and become 

your comrade ; 
Be it as if I were with you. (Be not too certain but I am now 

with you.) 


O TAKE my hand Walt Whitman ! 
Such gliding wonders ! such sights and sounds ! 
Such join'd unended links, each hook'd to the next, 
Each answering all, each sharing the earth with all. 

What widens within you Walt Whitman ? 

What waves and soils exuding? 

What climes ? what persons and cities are here ? 

Who are the infants, some playing, some slumbering? 

Who are the girls ? who are the married women ? 

Who are the groups of old men going slowly with their arms about 

each other's necks? 
What rivers are these? what forests and fruits are these? 
What are the mountains call'd that rise so high in the mists? 
What myriads of dwellings are they hll'd with dwellers? 

Within me latitude widens, longitude lengthens, 

Asia, Africa, Europe, are to the east — America is provided for in 

the west. 
Banding the bulge of the earth winds the hot equator, 
Curiously north and south turn the axis-ends. 
Within me is the longest day, the sun wheels in slanting rings, it 

does not set for months, 
Stretch'd in due time within me the midnight sun just rises above 

the horizon and sinks again. 
Within me zones, seas, cataracts, forests, volcanoes, groups, 
Malaysia, Polynesia, and the great West Indian islands. 

Salut a u Monde / 113 


What do you hear Walt Whitman ? 

I hear the workman singing and the farmer's wife singing, 

I hear in the distance the sounds of children and of animals early 

in the day, 
I hear emulous shouts of Austrahans pursuing the wild horse, 
I hear the Spanish dance with castanets in the chestnut shade, to 

the rebeck and guitar, 
I hear continual echoes from the Thames, 
I hear fierce French liberty songs, 
I hear of the Italian boat-sculler the musical recitative of old 

I hear the locusts in Syria as they strike the grain and grass with 

the showers of their terrible clouds, 
I hear the Coptic refrain toward sundown, pensively falling on the 

breast of the black venerable vast mother the Nile, 
I hear the chirp of the Mexican muleteer, and the bells of the 

I hear the Arab muezzin calling from the top of the mosque, 
I hear the Christian priests at the altars of their churches, I hear 

the responsive base and soprano, 
I hear the cry of the Cossack, and the sailor's voice putting to sea 

at Okotsk, 
I hear the wheeze of the slave-coffle as the slaves march on, as 

the husky gangs pass on by twos and threes, fasten'd together 

with wrist-chams and ankle-chains, 
I hear the Hebrew reading his records and psalms, 
I hear the rhythmic myths of the Greeks, and the strong legends 

of the Romans, 
I hear the tale of the divine life and bloody death of the beautiful 

God the Christ, 
I hear the Hindoo teaching his favorite pupil the loves, wars, 

adages, transmitted safely to this day from poets who wrote 

three thousand years ago. 

What do you see Walt Whitman ? 

Who are they you salute, and that one after another salute you ? 

I see a great round wonder roUing through space, 

I see diminute farms, hamlets, ruins, graveyards, jails, factories, 

palaces, hovels, huts of barbarians, tents of nomads upon 

the surface. 

114 Leaves of Grass. 

I see the shaded part on one side where the sleepers are sleeping, 

and the sunlit part on the other side, 
I see the curious rapid change of the light and shade, 
I see distant lands, as real and near to the inhabitants of them as 

my land is to me. 

I see plenteous waters, 

I see mountain peaks, I see the sierras of Andes where they range, 

I see plainly the Himalayas, Chian Shahs, Altays, Ghauts, 

I see the giant pinnacles of Elbruz, Kazbek, Bazardjusi, 

I see the Styrian Alps, and the Karnac Alps, 

I see the Pyrenees, Balks, Carpathians, and to the north the 

Dofrafields, and off at sea mount Hecla, 
I see Vesuvius and Etna, the mountains of the Moon, and the 

Red mountains of Madagascar, 
I see the Lybian, Arabian, and Asiatic deserts, 
I see huge dreadful Arctic and xA.ntarctic icebergs, 
I see the superior oceans and the inferior ones, the Atlantic and 

Pacific, the sea of Mexico, the Brazilian sea, and the sea 

of Peru, 
The waters of Hindustan, the China sea, ^nd the gulf of Guinea, 
The Japan waters, the beautiful bay of Nagusaki land-lock'd in its 

The spread of the Baltic, Caspian, Bothnia, the British shores, and 

the bay of Biscay, 
The clear-sunn'd Mediterranean, and from one to another of its 

The White sea, and the sea around Greenland. 

I behold the mariners of the world. 

Some are in storms, some in the night with the watch on the look- 
Some drifting helplessly, some with contagious diseases. 

I behold the sail and steamships of the world, some in clusters in 

port, some on their voyages, 
Some double the cape of Storms, some cape Verde, others capes 

Guardafui, Bon, or Baj adore. 
Others Dondra head, others pass the straits of Sunda, others cape 

Lopatka, others Behring's straits, 
Others cape Horn, others sail the gulf of Mexico or along Cuba 

or Hayti, others Hudson's bay or Baffin's bay. 
Others pass the straits of Dover, others enter the Wash, others the 

firth of Solway, others round cape Clear, others the Land's 


Salut a u Monde / 115 

Others traverse the Zuyder Zee or the Scheld, 

Others as comers and goers at Gibraltar or the Dardanelles, 

Others sternly push their way through the northern winter-packs, 

Others descend or ascend the Obi or the Lena, 

Others the Niger or the Congo, others the Indus, the Burampooter 

and Cambodia, 
Others wait steam'd up ready to start in the ports of Australia, 
Wait at Liverpool, Glasgow, Dublin, Marseilles, Lisbon, Naples, 

Hamburg, Bremen, Bordeaux, the Hague, Copenhagen, 
Wait at Valparaiso, Rio Janeiro, Panama. 

I see the tracks of the railroads of the earth, 
I see them in Great Britain, I see them in Europe, 
I see them in Asia and in Africa. 

I see the electric telegraphs of the earth, 

I see the filaments of the news of the wars, deaths, losses, gains, 
passions, of my race. 

I see the long river-stripes of the earth, 

I see the Amazon and the Paraguay, 

I see the four great rivers of China, the Amour, the Yellow River, 

the Yiang-tse, and the Pearl, 
I see where the Seine flows, and where the Danube, the Loire, the 

Rhone, and the Guadalquiver flow, 
I see the windings of the Volga, the Dnieper, the Oder, 
I see the Tuscan going down the Arno, and the Venetian along 

the Po, 
I see the Greek seaman sailing out of Egina bay. 


I see the site of the old empire of Assyria, and that of Persia, and 

that of India, 
I see the falling of the Ganges over the high rim of Saukara. 

I see the place of the idea of the Deity incarnated by avatars in 

human forms, 
I see the spots of the successions of priests on the earth, oracles, 

sacrificers, brahmins, sabians, llamas, monks, muftis, ex- 

I see where druids walk'd the groves of Mona, I see the mistletoe 

and vervain, 
I see the temples of the deaths of the bodies of Gods, I see the 

old signifiers. 

Ii6 Leaves of Grass. 

I see Christ eating the bread of his last supper in the midst, of 
youths and old persons, 

I see where the strong divine young man the Hercules toil'd faith- 
fully and long and then died, 

I see the place of the innocent rich life and hapless fate of the 
beautiful nocturnal son, the full-limb'd Bacchus, 

I see Kneph, blooming, drest in blue, with the crown of feathers 
on his head, 

I see Hermes, unsuspected, dying, well-belov'd, saying to the 
people Do not weep for me, 

This is not my true country, I have lived banish'' d fi^ojn my true 
country, I now go back there, 

I return to the celestial sphere where every one goes in his turn. 

I see the battle-fields of the earth, grass grows upon them and 

blossoms and corn, 
I see the tracks of ancient and modern expeditions. 

I see the nameless masonries, venerable messages of the unknown 
events, heroes, records of the earth. 

I see the places of the sagas, 

I see pine-trees and fir-trees torn by northern blasts, 

I see granite bowlders and cliffs, I see green meadows and lakes, 

I see the burial-cairns of Scandinavian warriors, 

I see them raised high with stones by the marge of restless oceans, 
that the dead men's spirits when they wearied of their quiet 
graves might rise up through the mounds and gaze on the 
tossing billows, and be refresh'd by storms, immensity, 
liberty, action. 

I see the steppes of Asia, 

I see the tumuli of Mongolia, I see the tents of Kalmucks and 

I see the nomadic tribes with herds of oxen and cows, 
I see the table-lands notched with ravines, I see the jungles and 

I see the camel, the wild steed, the bustard, the fat-taiPd sheep, 

the antelope, and the burrowing wolf. 

I see the highlands of Abyssinia, 

I see flocks of goats feeding, and see the fig-tree, tamarind, date, 

And see fields of teff-wheat and places of verdure and gold. 

Salut a u Monde / 1 1 7 

I see the Brazilian vaquero, 

I see the BoHvian ascending mount Sorata, 

I see the Wacho crossing the plains, I see the incomparable rider 

of horses with his lasso on his arm, 
I see over the pampas the pursuit of wild cattle for their hides. 

I see the regions of snow and ice, 
I see the sharp-eyed Samoiede and the Finn, 
I see the seal-seeker in his boat poising his lance, 
I see the Siberian on his slight-built sledge drawn by dogs, 
I see the porpoise-hunters, I see the whale-crews of the south Pa- 
cific and the north xA.tlantic, 
I see the cliffs, glaciers, torrents, valleys, of Switzerland — I mark 
the long winters and the isolation. 

I see the cities of the earth and make myself at random a part of 

I am a real Parisian, 

I am a habitan of Vienna, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Constantinople, 
I am of Adelaide, Sidney, Melbourne, 

I am of London, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, Limerick, 
I am of Madrid, Cadiz, Barcelona, Oporto, Lyons, Brussels, Berne, 

Frankfort, Stuttgart, Turin, Florence, 
I belong in Moscow, Cracow, Warsaw, or northward in Christiania 

or Stockholm, or in Siberian Irkutsk, or in some street in 

I descend upon all those cities, and rise from them again. 

I see vapors exhaling from unexplored countries, 
I see the savage types, the bow and arrow, the poison'd splint, the 
fetich, and the obi. 

I see African and Asiatic towns, 

I see Algiers, Tripoli, Derne, Mogadore, Timbuctoo, Monrovia, 
I see the swarms of Pekin, Canton, Benares, Delhi, Calcutta, Tokio, 
I see the Kruman in his hut, and the Dahoman and Ashantee-man 

in their huts, 
I see the Turk smoking opium in Aleppo, 
I see the picturesque crowds at the fairs of Khiva and those of 

I see Teheran, I see Muscat and Medina and the intervening sands, 

I see the caravans toiling onward, 

Ii8 Leaves of Grass. 

I see Egypt and the Egyptians, I see the pyramids and obehsks, 
I look on chiseird histories, records of conquering kings, dynasties, 

cut in slabs of sand-stone, or on granite-blocks, 
I see at Memphis mummy-pits containing mummies embalm'd, 

swathed in linen cloth, lying there many centuries, 
I look on the fall'n Theban, the large-ball'd eyes, the side-drooping 

neck^ the hands folded across the breast. 

I see all the menials of the earth, laboring, 

I see all the prisoners in the prisons, 

I see the defective human bodies of the earth. 

The blind, the deaf and dumb, idiots, hunchbacks, lunatics. 

The pirates, thieves, betrayers, murderers, slave-makers of the earth, 

The helpless infants, and the helpless old men and women. 

I see male and female everywhere, 

I see the serene brotherhood of philosophs, 

I see the constructiveness of my race, 

I see the results of the perseverance and industry of my race, 

I see ranks, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, I go among them, I 

mix indiscriminately, 
And I salute all the inhabitants of the earth. 


You whoever you are ! 

You daughter or son of England ! 

You of the mighty Slavic tribes and empires ! you Russ in Russia ! 

You dim-descended, black, divine-soul'd African, large, fine- 
headed, nobly-form'd, superbly destin'd, on equal terms 
with me ! 

You Norwegian ! Swede ! Dane ! Icelander ! you Prussian ! 

You Spaniard of Spain ! you Portuguese ! 

You Frenchwoman and Frenchman of France ! 

You Beige ! you liberty-lover of the Netherlands ! (you stock 
whence I myself have descended ;) 

You sturdy Austrian ! you Lombard ! Hun ! Bohemian ! farmer of 
Styria ! 

You neighbor of the Danube ! 

You working-man of the Rhine, the Elbe, or the Weser ! you 
working-woman too ! 

You Sardinian ! you Bavarian ! Swabian ! Saxon ! Wallachian ! 
Bulgarian ! 

You Roman ! Neapolitan ! you Greek ! 

You lithe matador in the arena at Seville ! 

You mountaineer living lawlessly on the Taurus or Caucasus ! 

Salut au Monde.' II9 

You Bokh horse-herd watching your mares and stallions feeding ! 

You beautiful-bodied Persian at full speed in the saddle shooting 
arrows to the mark ! 

You Chinaman and Chinawoman of China ! you Tartar of Tartary ! 

You women of the earth subordinated at your tasks ! 

You Jew journeying in your old age through every risk to stand 
once on Syrian ground ! 

You other Jews waiting in all lands for your Messiah ! 

You thoughtful Armenian pondering by some stream of the Eu- 
phrates ! you peering amid the ruins of Nineveh ! you 
ascending mount Ararat ! 

You foot-worn pilgrim welcoming the far-away sparkle of the 
minarets of Mecca ! 

You sheiks along the stretch from Suez to Bab-el-mandeb ruling 
your families and tribes ! 

You olive-grower tending your fruit on fields of Nazareth, Damas- 
cus, or lake Tiberias ! 

You Thibet trader on the wide inland or bargaining in the shops 
of Lassa ! 

You Japanese man or woman ! you liver in Madagascar, Ceylon, 
Sumatra, Borneo ! 

All you continentals of Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, indifferent 
of place ! 

All you on the numberless islands of the archipelagoes of the sea ! 

And you of centuries hence when you listen to me ! 

And you each and everywhere whom I specify not, but include 
just the same 1 

Health to you ! good will to you all, from me and America sent ! 

Each of us inevitable, 

Each of us Hmitless — each of us with his or her right upon the 

Each of us alio w'd. the eternal purports of the earth. 
Each of us here as divinely as any is here. 

You Hottentot with clicking palate ! you woolly-hair'd hordes ! 

You own'd persons dropping sweat-drops or blood-drops ! 

You human forms with the fathomless ever-impressive counte- 
nances of brutes ! 

You poor koboo whom the meanest of the rest look down upon 
for all your glimmering language and spirituality ! 

You dwarf 'd Kamtschatkan, Greenlander, Lapp ! 

You Austral negro, naked, red, sooty, with protrusive lip, groveling, 
seeking your food ! 

I20 Leaves of Grass. 

You Caffre, Berber, Soudanese ! 

You haggard, uncouth, untutor'd Bedowee ! 

You plague-swarms in Madras, Nankin, Kaubul, Cairo ! 

You benighted roamer of Amazonia ! you Patagonian ! you Feejee- 

man ! 
I do not prefer others so very much before you either, 
I do not say one word against you, away back there where you 

(You will come forward in due time to my side.) 


My spirit has pass'd in compassion and determination around the 

whole earth, 
I have look'd for equals and lovers and found them ready for me 

in all lands, 
I think some divine rapport has equalized me with them. 

You vapors, I think I have risen with you, moved away to distant 
continents, and fallen down there, for reasons, 

I think I have blown with you you winds ; 

You waters I have finger'd every shore with you, 

I have run through what any river or strait of the globe has run 

I have taken my stand on the bases of peninsulas and on the high 
embedded rocks, to cry thence : 

Salut au mo fide / 

What cities the light or warmth penetrates I penetrate those cities 

All islands to which birds wing their way I wing my way myself. 

Toward you all, in Americans name, 

I raise high the perpendicular hand, I make the signal, 

To remain after me in sight forever, 

For all the haunts and homes of men. 


Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, 

Healthy, free, the world before me. 

The long brown path before me leading wherever I .choose. 

Song of the Open Road. 12 1 

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune, 
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing, 
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, 
Strong and content I travel the open road. 

The earth, that is sufficient, 

I do not want the constellations any nearer, 

I know they are very well where they are, 

I know they suffice for those who belong to them. 

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens, 

I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go, 

I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them, 

I am fill'd with them, and I will fill them in return.) 

You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all 

that is here, 
I believe that much unseen is also here. 

Here the profound lesson of reception, nor preference nor denial. 
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas'd, the ilhterate 

person, are not denied ; 
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar's tramp, the 

drunkard's stagger, the laughing party of mechanics. 
The escaped youth, the rich person's carriage, the fop, the eloping 

The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of furniture into the 

town, the return back from the town. 
They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can be interdicted. 
None but are accepted, none but shall be dear to me. 

You air that serves me with breath to speak ! 

You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them 

shape 1 
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers ! 
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides ! 
I beheve you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear 

to me. 

You flagg'd walks of the cities ! you strong curbs at the edges ! 
You ferries ! you planks and posts of wharves ! you timber-lined 
sides 1 you distant ships ! 

122 Leaves of Grass. 

You rows of houses ! you window-pierc'd fagades 1 you roofs ! 
You porches and entrances ! you copings and iron guards ! 
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much ! 
You doors and ascending steps ! you arches ! 
You gray stones of interminable pavements ! you trodden crossings ! 
From all that has touch'd you I beheve you have imparted to 

yourselves, and now would impart the same secretly to me, 
From the living and the dead you have peopled your impassive 

surfaces, and the spirits thereof would be evident and 

amicable with me. 

The earth expanding right hand and left hand, 

The picture alive, every part in its best light, 

The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is 

not wanted. 
The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment of 

the road. 

O highway I travel, do you say to me .Do not leave me ? 
Do you say Venture not — if yoic leave me you are lost? 
Do you say / am already prepared, I am well-beaten and un- 
dented, adhere to me ? 

public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love 

You express me better than I can express myself. 
You shall be more to me than my poem. 

1 think heroic deeds were all conceiv'd in the open air, and all 

free poems also, 

I think I could stop here myself and do miracles, 

I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall hke, and who- 
ever beholds me shall like me, 

I think whoever I see must be happy. 


From this hour I ordain myself loosed of limits and imaginary 

Going where I list, my own master total and absolute, 
Listening to others, considering well what they say. 
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, 
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds 

that would hold me. 

Song of the Open Road, 1 23 

I inhale great draughts of space, 

The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are 

I am larger, better than I thought, 

I did not know I held so much goodness. 

All seems beautiful to me, - 

I can repeat over to men and women You have done such good 

to me I would do the same to you, 
I will recruit for myself and you as I go, 
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go, 
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them, 
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me. 
Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me. 


Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear it would not amaze 

Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear'd it would 

not astonish me. 

Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons, 

It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth. 

Here a great personal deed has room, 

(Such a deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men. 
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law and mocks all 
authority and all argument against it.) 

Here is the test of wisdom. 

Wisdom is not finally tested in schools. 

Wisdom cannot be pass'd from one having it to another not 

having it, 
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof. 
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content, 
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the 

excellence of things ; 
Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes 

it out of the soul. 

Now I re-examine philosophies and religions. 

They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under 

the spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing 


124 Leaves of Grass. 

Here is realization, 

Here is a man tallied — he realizes here what he has in him, 
The past, the future, majesty, love — if they are vacant of you, 
you are vacant of them. 

Only the kernel of every object nourishes ; 

Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me ? 

Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for you and me ? 

Here is adhesiveness, it is not previously fashion'd, it is apropos ; 
Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved by strangers ? 
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls ? 

Here is the efflux of the soul. 

The efflux of the soul comes from within through embower'd 

gates, ever provoking questions. 
These yearnings why are they? these thoughts in the darkness 

why are they? 
Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me the 

sunlight expands my blood? 
Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank? 
Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious 

thoughts descend upon me? 
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees and 

always drop fruit as I pass :) 
What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers ? 
What with some driver as I ride on the seat by his side ? 
What with some fisherman drawing his seine by the shore as I 

walk by and pause ? 
What gives me to be free to a woman's and man's good-will? 

what gives them to be free to mine ? 

The efflux of the soul is happiness, here is happiness, 
I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times, 
Now it flows unto us, we are rightly charged. 

Here rises the fluid and attaching character, 

The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and sweetness 

of man and woman, 
(The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and sweeter every 

day out of the roots of themselves, than it sprouts fresh 

and sweet continually out of itself.) 

Song of the Open Road. 125 

Towardjthe fluid and attaching character exudes the sweat of the 

love of young and old, 
From it falls distill'd the charm that mocks beauty and attainments, 
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of contact. 

Allons ! whoever you are come travel with me ! 
Traveling with me you find what never tires. 

The earth never tires, 

The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude 

and incomprehensible at first, 
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine thmgs well enveloped, 
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words 

can tell. 

Allons ! we must not stop here, 

However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwell- 
ing we cannot remain here, 

However shelter'd this port and however calm these waters we 
must not anchor here. 

However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are per- 
mitted to receive it but a little while. 

Allons ! the inducements shall be greater, 
We will sail pathless and wild seas. 

We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the Yankee clipper 
speeds by under full sail. 

Allons ! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements, 
Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity ; 
Allons ! from all formules ! 
From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic priests. 

The stale cadaver blocks up the passage — the burial waits no 

Allons ! yet take warning ! 

He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, endurance. 
None may come to the trial till he or she bring courage and health. 
Come not here if you have already spent the best of yourself. 
Only those may come who come in sweet and determin'd bodies. 
No diseas'd person, no rum-drinker or venereal taint is permitted 

126 Leaves of Grass. 

(I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes, rhymes, 
We convince by our presence.) 

Listen ! I will be honest with you, 

I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes, 

These are the days that must happen to you : 

You shall not heap up what is call'd riches, 

You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve. 

You but arrive at the city to which you were destin'd, you hardly 

settle yourself to satisfaction before you are call'd by an 

irresistible call to depart, 
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those 

who remain behind you. 
What beckonings of love you receive you shall only answer with 

passionate kisses of parting, 
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their reach'd 

hands toward you. 


Allons ! after the great Companions, and to belong to them ! 
They too are on the road — they are the swift and majestic men — 

they are the greatest women, 
Enjoyers of calms of seas and storms of seas, 
Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of land, 
Habitues of many distant countries, habitues of far-distant dwellings, 
Trusters of men and women, observers of cities, solitary toilers, 
Pausers and contemplators of tufts, blossoms, shells of the shore. 
Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides, tender helpers of 

children, bearers of children, 
Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves, lowerers-down of 

Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the years, the curious 

years each emerging from that which preceded it, 
Journeyers as with companions, namely their own diverse phases, 
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days, 
Journeyers gayly with their own youth, journeyers with their 

bearded and well-grain'd manhood, 
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsurpass'd, content, 
Journeyers with their own subUme old age of manhood or woman- 
Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth of the 

Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by freedom of death. 

Song of the Open Road. 127 


AUons ! to that which is endless as it was beginningless, 

To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights, 

To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days and nights 

they tend to, 
Again to merge them in the start of superior journeys, 
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it and pass it, 
To conceive no time, however distant, but what you may reach it 

and pass it, 
To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits for you, 

however long but it stretches and waits for you. 
To see no being, not God's or any, but you also go thither. 
To see no possession but you may possess it, enjoying all without 

labor or purchase, abstracting the feast yet not abstracting 

one particle of it, 
To take the best of the farmer's farm and the rich man's elegant 

villa, and the chaste blessings of the well-married couple, 

and the fruits of orchards and flowers of gardens, 
To take to your use out of the compact cities as you pass through, 
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward wherever you go. 
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter 

them, to gather the love out of their hearts. 
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave 

them behind you. 
To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for 

traveling souls. 

All parts away for the progress of souls. 

All rehgion, all sohd things, arts, governments — all that was or is 
apparent upon this globe or any globe, falls into niches and 
corners before the procession of souls along the grand roads 
of the universe. 

Of the progress of the souls of men and women along the grand 
roads of the universe, all other progress is the needed 
emblem and sustenance. 

Forever alive, forever forward. 

Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent, feeble, 

Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected by men. 
They go ! they go ! I know that they go, but I know not where 

they go. 
But I know that they go toward the best — toward something 


128 Leaves of Grass. 

Whoever you are, come forth ! or man or woman come forth ! 
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house, 
though you built it, or though it has been built for you. 

Out of the dark confinement ! out from behind the screen ! 
It is useless to protest, I know all and expose it. 

Behold through you as bad as the rest, 

Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of people, 

Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash'd and 

trimm'd faces. 
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair. 

No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the confession. 
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and hiding it goes, 
Formless and wordless through the streets of the cities, polite and 

bland in the parlors, 
In the cars of railroads, in steamboats, in the public assembly. 
Home to the houses of men and women, at the table, in the bed- 
room, everywhere. 
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright, death under 

the breast-bones, hell under the skull-bones, 
Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the ribbons and artificial 

Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable of itself, 
Speaking of any thing else but never of itself. 

Allons ! through struggles and wars ! 
The goal that was named cannot be countermanded. 

Have the past struggles succeeded? 

What has succeeded ? yourself ? your nation ? Nature ? 

Now understand me well — it is provided in the essence of things 
that from any fruition of success, no matter v/hat, shall 
come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary. 

My call is the call of battle, I nourish active rebellion. 
He going with me must go well arm'd. 

He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty, angry 
enemies, desertions. 


Allons ! the road is before us ! 

It is safe — I have tried it — my own feet have tried it well — be 
not detained ! 

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. 129 

Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the 

shelf unopen'd ! 
Let the tools remain in the workshop ! let the money remain 

unearn'd ! 
Let the school stand ! mind not the cry of the teacher ! 
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit ! let the lawyer plead in the 

court, and the judge expound the law. 

Camerado, I give you my hand ! 

I give you my love more precious than money, 

I give you myself before preaching or law ; 

A^ill you give me yourself ? will you come travel with me ? 

Shall we stick by each other as long as we live ? 


Flood-tide below me ! I see you face to face ! 
Clouds of the west — sun there half an hour high — I see you 
also face to face. 

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how 
curious you are to me ! 

On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, return- 
ing home, are more curious to me than you suppose, 

And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are 
more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might 


The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours of 

the day, 
The simple, compact, well-join'd scheme, myself disintegrated, 

every one disintegrated yet part of the scheme, 
The similitudes of the past and those of the future, 
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, 

on the walk in the street and the passage over the river. 
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away. 
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them, 
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others. 

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to 

130 Leaves of Grass. 

Others will watch the run of the flood-tide, 

Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and 
the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east, 

Others will see the islands large and small ; 

Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half 
an hour high, 

A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, 
others will see them. 

Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling- 
back to the sea of the ebb-tide. 

3 / 

It avails not, time nor place — distance avails not, 

I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so 

many generations hence, 
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt, 
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd, 
Just as you are refresh'd by the gladness of the river and the 

bright flow, I was refresh'd, 
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift 

current, I stood yet was hurried. 
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick- 

stemm'd pipes of steamboats, I look'd. 

I too many and many a time cross'd the river of old, 

Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the air 

floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies, 
Saw how the glistening yehow lit up parts of their bodies and left 

the rest in strong shadow, 
Saw the slow-wheeHng circles and the gradual edging toward the 

Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water. 
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams, 
Look'd at the fine centrifugal spokes of light round the shape of 

my head in the sunlit water, 
Look'd on the haze on the hills southward and south-westward, 
Look'd on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged with violet, 
Look'd toward the lower bay to notice the vessels arriving, 
Saw their approach, saw aboard those that were near me. 
Saw the white sails of schooners and sloops, saw the ships at anchor. 
The sailors at work in the rigging or out astride the spars. 
The round masts, the swinging motion of the hulls, the slender 

serpentine pennants. 
The large and small steamers in motion, the pilots in their pilot- 

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. 131 

The white wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous whirl of 

the wheels, 
The flags of all nations, the falling of them at sunset, 
The scallop-edged waves in the twihght, the ladled cups, the 

frolicsome crests and glistening, 
The stretch afar growing dimmer and dimmer, the gray walls of 

the granite storehouses by the docks. 
On the river the shadowy group, the big steam-tug closely flank'd 

on each side by the barges, the hay-boat, the belated 

On the neighboring shore the fires from the foundry chimneys 

burning high and glaringly into the night. 
Casting their flicker of black contrasted with wild red and yellow 

hght over the tops of houses, and down into the clefts of 


These and all else were to me the same as they are to you, 
I loved well those cities, loved well the stately and rapid river, 
The men and women I saw were all near to me. 
Others the same — others who look back on me because I look'd 

forward to them, 
(The time will come, though I stop here to-day and to-night.) 

What is it then between us ? 
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us ? 

Whatever it is, it avails not — distance avails not, and place avails 

I too hved, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine, 
I too walk'd the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the 

waters around it, 
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me. 
In the day among crowds of people sometimes they came upon me, 
In my walks home late at night or as I lay in my bed they came 

upon me, 
I too had been struck from the float forever held in solution, 
I too had receiv'd identity by my body. 
That I was I knew was of my body, and what I should be I knew 

I should be of my body. 

It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall. 
The dark threw its patches down upon me also/ 

132 Leaves of Grass, 

The best I had done seem'd to me blank and suspicious, 

My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in reality 

meagre ? 
Nor is it you alone who know what it is to be evil, 
I am he who knew what it was to be evil, 
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety, 
Blabb'd, blush'd, resented, lied, stole, grudg'd. 
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak. 
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly, malignant, 
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me. 
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous wish, not 

Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none of these 

Was one with the rest, the days and haps of the rest, 
Was call'd by my nighest name by clear loud voices of young men 

as they saw me approaching or passing. 
Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the negligent leaning of 

their flesh against me as I sat, 
Saw many I loved in the street or ferry-boat or public assembly, 

yet never told them a word. 
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing, 

Play'd the part that still looks back on the actor or actress, 
The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as great as we 

Or as small as we like, or both great and small. 


Closer yet I approach you. 

What thought you have of me now, I had as much of you — I laid 

in my stores in advance, 
I consider'd long and seriously of you before you were born. 

Who was to know what should come home to me ? 
Who knows but I am enjoying this? 

Who knows, for all the distance, but I am as good as looking at 
you now, for all you cannot see me ? 

Ah, what can ever be more stately and admirable to me than mast- 

hemm'd Manhattan? 
River and sunset and scallop-edg'd waves of flood-tide? 
The sea-gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat in the twilight, 

and the belated lighter? 

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. 133 

What gods can exceed these that clasp me by the hand, and with 
voices I love call me promptly and loudly by my nighest 
name as I approach ? 

What is more subtle than this which ties me to the woman or man 
that looks in my face ? 

Which fuses me into you now, and pours my meaning into you ? 

We understand then do we not? 

What I promis'd without mentioning it, have you not accepted? 
What the study could not teach — what the preaching could not 
accomphsh is accomplish'd, is it not ? 

Flow on, river ! flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with the ebb- 
tide ! 
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edg'd waves ! 
Gorgeous clouds of the sunset ! drench with your splendor me, or 

the men and women generations after me ! 
Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passengers ! 
Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta ! stand up, beautiful hills of 

Brooklyn ! 
Throb, baffled and curious brain ! throw out questions and answers ! 
Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of solution ! 
Gaze, loving and thirsting eyes, in the house or street or public 

assembly ! 
Sound out, voices of young men ! loudly and musically call me by 

my nighest name ! 
Live, old life ! play the part that looks back on the actor or actress ! 
Play the old role, the role that is great or small according as one 

makes it ! 
Consider, you who peruse me, whether I may not in unknown 

ways be looking upon you ; 
Be firm, rail over the river, to support those who lean idly, yet 

haste with the hasting current ; 
Fly on, sea-birds ! fly sideways, or wheel in large circles high in 

the air ; 
Receive the summer sky, you water, and faithfully hold it till all 

downcast eyes have time to take it from you ! 
Diverge, fine spokes of light, from the shape of my head, or any 

one's head, in the sunlit water ! 
Come on, ships from the lower bay ! pass up or down, white-sail'd 

schooners, sloops, lighters ! 
Flaunt away, flags of all nations ! be duly lower'd at sunset ! 
Burn high your fires, foundry chimneys ! cast black shadows at 

nightfall ! cast red and yellow light over the tops of the 

houses ! 

134 Leaves of Grass, 

Appearances, now or henceforth, indicate what you are, 

You necessary film, continue to envelop the soul, 

About my body for me, and your body for you, be hung our 

divinest aromas, 
Thrive, cities — bring your freight, bring your shows, ample and 

sufficient rivers, 
Expand, being than which none else is perhaps more spiritual, 
Keep your places, objects than which none else is more lasting. 

You have waited, you always wait, you dumb, beautiful ministers, 

We receive you with free sense at last, and are insatiate hence- 

Not you any more shall be able to foil us, or withhold yourselves 
from us, 

We use you, and do not cast you aside — we plant you perma- 
nently within us. 

We fathom you not — we love you — there is perfection in you also, 

You furnish your parts toward eternity. 

Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul. 


Now list to my morning's romanza, I tell the signs of the Answerer, 
To the cities and farms I sing as they spread in the sunshine 
before me. 

A young man comes to me bearing a message from his brother. 
How shall the young man know the whether and when of his 

brother ? 
Tell him to send me the signs. 

And I stand before the young man face to face, and take his right 
hand in my left hand and his left hand in my right hand. 

And I answer for his brother and for men, and I answer for him 
that answers for all, and send these signs. 

Him all wait for, him all yield up to, his word is decisive and final. 
Him they accept, in him lave, in him perceive themselves as amid 

Him they immerse and he immerses them. 

Song of the Answerer. 135 

Beautiful women, the haughtiest nations, laws, the landscape, 

people, animals. 
The profound earth and its attributes and the unquiet ocean, (so 

tell I my morning's romanza,) 
xAlII enjoyments and properties and money, and whatever money 

will buy. 
The best farms, others toiling and planting and he unavoidably 

The noblest and costliest cities, others grading and building and 

he domiciles there. 
Nothing for any one but what is for him, near and far are for him, 

the ships in the offing. 
The perpetual shows and marches on land are for him if they are 

for anybody. 

He puts things in their attitudes. 

He puts to-day out of himself with plasticity and love. 
He places his own times, reminiscences, parents, brothers and 
sisters, associations, employment, politics, so that the rest 
never shame them afterward, nor assume to command 

He is the Answerer, 

What can be answered he answers, and what cannot be answer'd 
he shows how it cannot be answer'd. 

A man is a summons and challenge, 

(It is vain to skulk — do you hear that mocking and laughter? do 
you hear the ironical echoes ?) 

Books, friendships, philosophers, priests, action, pleasure, pride, 
beat up and down seeking to give satisfaction, 

He indicates the satisfaction, and indicates them that beat up and 
down also. 

Whichever the sex, whatever the season or place, he may go freshly 

and gently and safely by day or by night. 
He has the pass-key of hearts, to him the response of the prying 

of hands on the knobs. 

His welcome is universal, the flow of beauty is not more welcome 

or universal than he is. 
The person he favors by day or sleeps with at night is blessed. 

Every existence has its idiom, every thing has an idiom and tongue, 

136 Leaves of Grass, 

He resolves all tongues into his own and bestows it upon men, and 
any man translates, and any man translates himself also, 

One part does not counteract another part, he is the joiner, he 
sees how they join. 

He says indifferently and alike How are yoti friend? to the 

President at his levee, 
And he says Good-day viy brother,, to Cudge that hoes in the 

And both understand him and know that his speech is right. 

He walks with perfect ease in the capitol. 

He walks among the Congress, and one Representative says to 
another. Here is our equal appearing and new. 

Then the mechanics take him for a mechanic, 

And the soldiers suppose him to be a soldier, and the sailors that 

he has follow'd the sea. 
And the authors take him for an author, and the artists for an 

And the laborers perceive he could labor with them and love them, 
No matter what the work is, that he is the one to follow it or has 

follow'd it, 
No matter what the nation, that he might find his brothers and 

sisters there. 

The English believe he comes of their English stock, 
A Jew to the Jew he seems, a Russ to the Russ, usual and near, 
removed from none. 

Whoever he looks at in the traveler's coffee-house claims huTi, 
The ItaHan or Frenchman is sure, the German is sure, the Spaniard 

is sure, and the island Cuban is sure. 
The engineer, the deck-hand on the great lakes, or on the Missis- 
sippi or St. Lawrence or Sacramento, or Hudson or Pau- 
manok sound, claims him. 

The gentleman of perfect blood acknowledges his perfect blood, 
The insulter, the prostitute, the angry person, the beggar, see 

themselves in the ways of him, he strangely transmutes them, 
They are not vile any more, they hardly know themselves they are 

so grown. 

The indications and tally of time, 

Perfect sanity shows the master among philosophs, 

Song of the Answerer, 137 

Time, always without break, indicates itself in parts, 
What always indicates the poet is the crowd of the pleasant com- 
pany of singers, and their words. 
The words of the singers are the hours or minutes of the light or 
dark, but the words of the maker of poems are the general 
light and dark, 
The maker of poems settles justice, reality, immortality. 
His insight and power encircle things and the human race, 
He is the glory and extract thus far of things and of the human 

The singers do not beget, only the Poet begets. 

The singers are welcom'd, understood, appear often enough, but 

rare has the day been, likewise the spot, of the birth of the 

maker of poems, the Answerer, 
(Not every century nor every five centuries has contain'd such a 

day, for all its names.) 

The singers of successive hours of centuries may have ostensible 
names, but the name of each of them is one of the singers. 

The name of each is, eye-singer, ear-singer, head-singer, sweet- 
singer, night-singer, parlor-singer, love-singer, weird-singer, 
or something else. 

All this time and at all times wait the words of true poems. 

The words of true poems do not merely please. 

The true poets are not followers of beauty but the august masters 

of beauty ; 
The greatness of sons is the exuding of the greatness of mothers 

and fathers. 
The words of true poems are the tuft and final applause of science. 

Divine instinct, breadth of vision, the law of reason, health, rudeness 

of body, withdrawnness, 
Gayety, sun-tan, air-sweetness, such are some of the words of poems. 

The sailor and traveler underlie the maker of poems, the Answerer, 
The builder, geometer, chemist, anatomist, phrenologist, artist, all 
these underlie the maker of poems, the Answerer. 

The words of the true poems give you more than poems. 

They give you to form for yourself poems, religions, politics, war, 

peace, behavior, histories, essays, daily life, and every thing 

They balance ranks, colors, races, creeds, and the sexes. 

138 Leaves of Grass. 

They do not seek beauty, they are sought, ' 

Forever touching them or close upon them follows beauty, longing, 
fain, love-sick. 

They prepare for death, yet are they not the finish, but rather the 

They bring none to his or her terminus or to be content and full, 
Whom they take they take into space to behold the birth of stars, 

to learn one of the meanings. 
To launch off with absolute faith, to sweep through the ceaseless 

rings and never be quiet again. 


Always our old feuillage ! 

Always Florida's green peninsula — always the priceless delta of 

Louisiana — always the cotton-fields of Alabama and Texas, 
Always California's golden hills and hollows, and the silver moun- 
tains of New Mexico — always soft-breath'd Cuba, 
Always the vast slope drain'd by the Southern sea, inseparable with 

the slopes drain'd by the Eastern and Western seas, 
The area the eighty-third year of these States, the three and a half 

millions of square miles. 
The eighteen thousand miles of sea-coast and bay-coast on the 

main, the thirty thousand miles of river navigation, 
The seven millions of distinct families and the same number of 

dwellings — always these, and more, branching forth into 

numberless branches, 
Always the free range and diversity — always the continent of 

Democracy ; 
Always the prairies, pastures, forests, vast cities, travelers, Kanada, 

the snows ; 
Always these compact lands tied at the hips with the belt stringing 

the huge oval lakes ; 
Always the West with strong native persons, the increasing density 

there, the habitans, friendly, threatening, ironical, scorning 

invaders ; 
All sights, South, North, East — all deeds, promiscuously done at 

all times. 
All characters, movements, growths, a few noticed, myriads unno- 
Through Mannahatta's streets I walking, these things gathering, 

Our Old Feuillage. 139 

On interior rivers by night in the glare of pine knots, steamboats 

wooding up, 
Sunlight by day on the v^alley of the Susquehanna, and on the 

valleys of the Potomac and Rappahannock, and the valleys 

of the Roanoke and Delaware, 
In their northerly wilds beasts of prey haunting the Adirondacks 

the hills, or lapping the Saginaw waters to drink. 
In a lonesome inlet a sheldrake lost from the flock, sitting on the 

water rocking silently. 
In farmers' barns oxen in the stable, their harvest labor done, they 

rest standing, they are too tired, 
Afar on arctic ice the she-walrus lying drowsily while her cubs play 

The hawk sailing where men have not yet sail'd, the farthest polar 

sea, ripply, crystalline, open, beyond the floes. 
White drift spooning ahead where the ship in the tempest dashes. 
On solid land what is done in cities as the bells strike midnight 

In primitive woods the sounds there also sounding, the howl of the 

wolf, the scream of the panther, and the hoarse bellow of 

the elk. 
In winter beneath the hard blue ice of Moosehead lake, in summer 

visible through the clear waters, the great trout swimming, 
In lower latitudes in warmer air in the Carolinas the large black 

buzzard floating slowly high beyond the tree tops, 
Below, the red cedar festoon'd with tylandria, the pines and 

cypresses growing out of the white sand that spreads far 

and flat, 
Rude boats descending the big Pedee, climbing plants, parasites 

with color'd flowers and berries enveloping huge trees. 
The waving drapery on the live-oak trailing long and low, noise- 
lessly waved by the wind. 
The camp of Georgia wagoners just after dark, the supper-fires 

and the cooking and eating by whites and negroes, 
Thirty or forty great wagons, the mules, cattle, horses, feeding 

from troughs. 
The shadows, gleams, up under the leaves of the old sycamore- 
trees, the flames with the black smoke from the pitch-pine 

curling and rising ; 
Southern fishermen fishing, the sounds and inlets of North Caro- 
lina's coast, the shad-fishery and the herring-fishery, the 

large sweep-seines the windlasses on shore work'd by 

horses, the clearing, curing, and packing-houses ; 
Deep in the forest in piney woods turpentine dropping from the 

incisions in the trees, there are the turpentine works, 

140 Leaves of Grass. 

There are the negroes at work in good health, the ground in all 
directions is cover'd with pine straw ; 

In Tennessee and Kentucky slaves busy in the coalings, at the 
forge, by the furnace-blaze, or at the corn-shucking, 

In Virginia, the planter's son returning after a long absence, joy- 
fully welcom'd and kiss'd by the aged mulatto nurse, 

On rivers boatmen safely moor'd at nightfall in their boats under 
shelter of high banks. 

Some of the younger men dance to the sound of the banjo or 
fiddle, others sit on the gunwale smoking and talking ; 

Late in the afternoon the mocking-bird, the American mimic, 
singing in the Great Dismal Swamp, 

There are the greenish waters, the resinous odor, the plenteous 
moss, the cypress-tree, and the juniper- tree ; 

Northward, young men of Mannahatta, the target company from 
an excursion returning home at evening, the musket-muz- 
zles all bear bunches of flowers presented by women ; 

Children at play, or on his father's lap a young boy fallen asleep, 
(how his lips move ! how he smiles in his sleep !) 

The scout riding on horseback over the plains west of the Missis- 
sippi, he ascends a knoll and sweeps his eyes around ; 

California life, the miner, bearded, dress'd in his rude costume, 
the stanch California friendship, the sweet air, the graves 
one in passing meets solitary just aside the horse-path ; 

Down in Texas the cotton-iield, the negro-cabins, drivers driving 
mules or oxen before rude carts, cotton bales piled on 
banks and wharves ; 

Encircling all, vast-darting up and wide, the American Soul, with 
equal hemispheres, one Love, one Dilation or Pride ; 

In arriere the peace-talk with the Iroquois the aborigines, the 
calumet, the pipe of good-will, arbitration, and indorse- 

The sachem blowing the smoke first toward the sun and then 
toward the earth. 

The drama of the scalp-dance enacted with painted faces and 
guttural exclamations, 

The setting out of the war-party, the long and stealthy march. 

The single file, the swinging hatchets, the surprise and slaughter 
of enemies ; 

All the acts, scenes, ways, persons, attitudes of these States, 
reminiscences, institutions. 

All these States compact, every square mile of these States without 
excepting a particle ; 

Me pleas'd, rambling in lanes and country fields, Paumanok's 

Our Old Feuillage, 141 

Observing the spiral flight of two httle yellow butterflies shuffling 
between each other, ascending high in the air, 

The darting swallow, the destroyer of insects, the fall traveler 
southward but returning northward early in the spring, 

The country boy at the close of the day driving the herd of cows 
and shouting to them as they loiter to browse by the road- 

The city wharf, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, New 
Orleans, San Francisco, 

The departing ships when the sailors heave at the capstan ; 

Evening — me in my room — the setting sun. 

The setting summer sun shining in my open window, showing the 
swarm of flies, suspended, balancing in the air in the centre 
of the room, darting athwart, up and down, casting swift 
shadows in specks on the opposite wall where the shine is ; 

The athletic American matron speaking in public to. crowds of 

Males, females, immigrants, combinations, the copiousness, the 
individuaUty of the States, each for itself — the money- 

Factories, machinery, the mechanical forces, the windlass, lever, 
pulley, all certainties, 

The certainty of space, increase, freedom, futurity. 

In space the sporades, the scatter'd islands, the stars — on the 
firm earth, the lands, my lands, 

O lands ! all so dear to me — what you are, (whatever it is,) I 
putting it at random in these songs, become a part of that, 
whatever it is, 

Southward there, I screaming, with wings slow flapping, with the 
myriads of gulls wintering along the coasts of Florida, 

Otherways there atwixt the banks of the Arkansaw, the Rio 
Grande, the Nueces, the Brazos, the Tombigbee, the Red 
River, the Saskatchawan or the Osage, I with the spring 
waters laughing and skipping and running. 

Northward, on the sands, on some shallow bay of Paumanok, I 
with parties of snowy herons wading in the wet to seek 
worms and aquatic plants, 

Retreating, triumphandy twittering, the king-bird, from piercing 
the crow with its bill, for amusement — and I triumphantly 

The migrating flock of wild geese alighting in autumn to refresh 
themselves, the body of the flock feed, the sentinels out- 
side move around with erect heads watching, and are from 
time to time reliev'd by other sentinels — and I feeding 
and taking turns with the rest, 

142 Leaves of Grass. 

In Kanadian forests the moose, large as an ox, corner'd by 
hunters, rising desperately on his hind-feet, and plunging 
with his fore-feet, the hoofs as sharp as knives — and I, 
plunging at the hunters, corner'd and desperate, 

In the Mannahatta, streets, piers, shipping, store-houses, and the 
countless workmen working in the shops. 

And I too of the Mannahatta, singing thereof — and no less in 
myself than the whole of the Mannahatta in itself, 

Singing the song of These, my ever-united lands — my body no 
more inevitably united, part to part, and made out of a 
thousand diverse contributions one identity, any more than 
my lands are inevitably united and made One identity : 

Nativities, climates, the grass of the great pastoral Plains, 

Cities, labors, death, animals, products, war, good and evil — 
these me. 

These affording, in all their particulars, the old feuillage to me 
and to America, how can I do less than pass the clew of 
the union of them, to afford the like to you ? 

Whoever you are ! how can I but offer you divine leaves, that you 
also be eligible as I am? 

How can I but as here chanting, invite you for yourself to collect 
bouquets of the incomparable feuillage of these States ? 


O TO make the most jubilant song ! 

Full of music — full of manhood, womanhood, infancy ! 

Full of common employments — full of grain and trees. 

O for the voices of animals — O for the swiftness and balance of 

fishes ! 
O for the dropping of raindrops in a song ! 
O for the sunshine and motion of waves in a song ! 

the joy of my spirit — it is uncaged — it darts like lightning ! 
It is not enough to have this globe or a certain time, 

1 will have thousands of globes and all time. 

O the engineer's joys ! to go with a locomotive ! 

To hear the hiss of steam, the merry shriek, the steam-whistle, the 

laughing locomotive ! 
To push with resistless way and speed off in the distance. 

A Song of Joys, 143 

O the gleesome saunter over fields and hillsides ! 

The leaves and flowers of the commonest weeds, the moist firesh 

stillness of the woods, 
The exquisite smell of the earth at daybreak, and all through the 


O the horseman's and horsewoman's joys ! 

The saddle, the gallop, the pressure upon the seat, the cool gurgling 
by the ears and hair. 

the fireman's joys ! 

1 hear the alarm at dead of night, 

I hear bells, shouts ! I pass the crowd, I run ! 
The sight of the flames maddens me with pleasure. 

O the joy of the strong-brawn'd fighter, towering in the arena in 
perfect condition, conscious of power, thirsting to meet his 

O the joy of that vast elemental sympathy which only the human 
soul is capable of generating and emitting in steady and 
limitless floods. 

O the mother's joys ! 

The watching, the endurance, the precious love, the anguish, the 
patiently yielded life. 

O the joy of increase, growth, recuperation, 

The joy of soothing and pacifying, the joy of concord and harmony. 

O to go back to the place where I was born. 

To hear the birds sing once more. 

To ramble about the house and barn and over the fields once more. 

And through the orchard and along the old lanes once more. 

to have been brought up on bays, lagoons, creeks, or along the 

To continue and be employ'd there all my life. 
The briny and damp smell, the shore, the salt weeds exposed at 

low water. 
The work of fishermen, the work of the eel-fisher and clam-fisher ; 

1 come with my clam-rake and spade, I come with my eel-spear. 
Is the tide out? I join the group of clam-diggers on the flats, 

I laugh and work with them, I joke at my work like a mettlesome 
young man ; • 

144 Leaves of Grass. 

In winter I take my eel-basket and eel-spear and travel out on foot 
on the ice — I have a small axe to cut holes in the ice, 

Behold me well-clothed going gayly or returning in the afternoon, 
my brood of tough boys accompanying me. 

My brood of grown and part-grown boys, who love to be with no 
one else so well as they love to be with me. 

By day to work with me, and by night to sleep with me. 

Another time in warm weather out in a boat, to lift the lobster-pots 
where they are sunk with heavy stones, (I know the 

the sweetness of the Fifth-month morning upon the water as I 

row just before sunrise toward the buoys, 

1 pull the wicker pots up slantingly, the dark green lobsters are 

desperate with their claws as I take them out, I insert 

wooden pegs in the joints of their pincers, 
I go to all the places one after another, and then row back to the 

There in a huge kettle of boiling water the lobsters shall be boil'd 

till their color becomes scarlet. 

Another time mackerel-taking, 

Voracious, mad for the hook, near the surface, they seem to fill the 

water for miles ; 
Another time fishing for rock-fish in Chesapeake bay, I one of the 

brown-faced crew ; 
Another time trailing for blue-fish off Paumanok, I stand with 

braced body. 
My left foot is on the gunwale, my right arm throws far out the 

coils of slender rope, 
In sight around me the quick veering and darting of fifty skiffs, 

my companions. 

O boating on the rivers. 

The voyage down the St. Lawrence, the superb scenery, the 

The ships sailing, the Thousand Islands, the occasional timber-raft 

and the raftsmen with long-reaching sweep-oars. 
The little huts on the rafts, and the stream of smoke when they 

cook supper at evening. 

(O something pernicious and dread ! 
Something far away from a puny and pious life ! 
Something unproved ! something in a trance ! 
Something escaped from the anchorage and driving free.) 

A Song of Joys. 145 

O to work in mines, or forging iron, 

Foundry casting, the foundry itself, the rude high roof, the ample 

and shadow'd space. 
The furnace, the hot hquid pour'd out and running. 

O to resume the joys of the soldier ! 

To feel the presence of a brave commanding officer — to feel his 

sympathy ! 
To behold his calmness — to be warm'd in the rays of his smile ! 
To go to battle — to hear the bugles play and the drums beat 1 
To hear the crash of artillery — to see the glittering of the bayonets 

and musket-barrels in the sun ! 
To see men fall and die and not complain ! 
To taste the savage taste of blood — to be so devilish ! 
To gloat so over the wounds and deaths of the enemy. 

the whaleman's joys ! O I cruise my old cruise again ! 

1 feel the ship's motion under me, I feel the Atlantic breezes fan- 

ning me, 
I hear the cry again sent down from the mast-head. There — she 

blows I 
Again I spring up the rigging to look with the rest — we descend, 

wild with excitement, 
I leap in the lower'd boat, we row toward our prey where he lies, 
We approach stealthy and silent, I see the mountainous mass, 

lethargic, basking, 
I see the harpooneer standing up, I see the weapon dart from his 

vigorous arm ; 

swift again far out in the ocean the wounded whale, settling, 

running to windward, tows me. 
Again I see him rise to breathe, we row close again, 

1 see a lance driven through his side, press'd deep, turn'd in 

the wound. 
Again we back off, I see him settle again, the life is leaving him 

As he rises he spouts blood, I see him swim in circles narrower 

and narrower, swiftly cutting the water — I see him die. 
He gives one convulsive leap in the centre of the circle, and then 

falls flat and still in the bloody foam. 

O the old manhood of me, my noblest joy of all 1 

My children and grand-children, my white hair and beard. 

My largeness, calmness, majesty, out of the long stretch of my life. 

O ripen'd joy of womanhood ! O happiness at last ! 

146 Leaves of Grass. 

I am more than eighty years of age, I am the most venerable 

How clear is my mind — how all people draw nigh to me ! 
What attractions are these beyond any before ? what bloom more 

than the bloom of youth? 
What beauty is this that descends upon me and rises out of me ? 

O the orator's joys ! 

To inflate the chest, to roll the thunder of the voice out from the 

ribs and throat, 
To make the people rage, weep, hate, desire, with yourself, 
To lead America — to quell America with a great tongue. 

O the joy of my soul leaning pois'd on itself, receiving identity 

through materials and loving them, observing characters 

and absorbing them. 
My soul vibrated back to me from them, from sight, hearing, touch, 

reason, articulation, comparison, memory, and the like. 
The real life of my senses and flesh transcending my senses and flesh, 
My body done with materials, my sight done with my material eyes. 
Proved to me this day beyond cavil that it is not my material eyes 

which finally see. 
Nor my material l3ody which finally loves, walks, laughs, shouts, 

embraces, procreates. 

O the farmer's joys ! 

Ohioan's, Illinoisian's, Wisconsinese', Kanadian's, lowan's, Kan- 

sian's, Missourian's, Oregonese' joys ! 
To rise at peep of day and pass forth nimbly to work, 
To plough land in the fall for winter- sown crops. 
To plough land in the spring for maize. 
To train orchards, to graft the trees, to gather apples in the fall. 

O to bathe in the swimming-bath, or in a good place along shore, 
To splash the water ! to walk ankle-deep, or race naked along the 

O to realize space ! 

The plenteousness of all, that there are no bounds. 
To emerge and be of the sky, of the sun and moon and flying 
clouds, as one with them. 

O the joy of a manly self-hood ! 

To be servile to none, to defer to none, not to any tyrant known 
or unknown, 

A So KG OF Joys, 147 

To walk with erect carriage, a step springy and elastic, 
To look with calm gaze or with a flashing eye, 
To speak with a full and sonorous voice out of a broad chest, 
To confront with your personality all the other personaUties of the 

Know'st thou the excellent joys of youth? 

Joys of the dear companions and of the merry word and laughing 

Joy of the glad light-beaming day, joy of the wide-breath'd games? 
Joy of sweet music, joy of the lighted ball-room and the dancers? 
Joy of the plenteous dinner, strong carouse and drinking? 

Yet O my soul supreme ! 

Know.'st thou the joys of pensive thought? 

Joys of the free and lonesome heart, the tender, gloomy heart? 

Joys of the solitary walk, the spirit bow'd yet proud, the suffering 

and the struggle ? 
The agonistic throes, the ecstasies, joys of the solemn musings day 

or night ? 
Joys of the thought of Death, the great spheres Time and Space ? 
Prophetic joys of better, loftier love's ideals, the divine wife, the 

sweet, eternal, perfect comrade? 
Joys all thine own undying one, joys worthy thee O soul. 

O while I live to be the ruler of life, not a slave, 

To meet life as a powerful conqueror, 

No fumes, no ennui, no more complaints or scornful criticisms. 

To these proud laws of the air, the water and the ground, proving 

my interior soul impregnable. 
And nothing exterior shall ever take command of me. 

For not hfe's joys alone I sing, repeating — the joy of death ! 
The beautiful touch of Death, soothing and benumbing a few 

moments, for reasons. 
Myself discharging my excrementitious body to be burn'd, or 

render'd to powder, or buried. 
My real body doubtless left to me for other spheres, 
My voided body nothing more to me, returning to the purifications, 

further offices, eternal uses of the earth. 

O to attract by more than attraction ! 

How it is I know not — yet behold ! the something which obeys 

none of the rest, 
It is offensive, never defensive — yet how magnetic it draws. 

148 Leaves of Grass. 

O to struggle against great odds, to meet enemies undaunted ! 
To be entirely alone with them, to find how much one can stand ! 
To look strife, torture, prison, popular odium, face to face ! 
To mount the scaffold, to advance to the muzzles of guns with 

perfect nonchalance ! 
To be indeed a God ! 

O to sail to sea in a ship ! 

To leave this steady unendurable land, 

To leave the tiresome sameness of the streets, the sidewalks and 

the houses, 
To leave you O you solid motionless land, and entering a ship, 
To sail and sail and sail ! 

O to have life henceforth a poem of new joys ! 
To dance, clap hands, exult, shout, skip, leap, roll on, float on 1 
To be a sailor of the world bound for all ports, 
A ship itself, (see indeed these sails I spread to the sun and air,) 
A swift and swelling ship full of rich words, full of joys. 


Weapon shapely, naked, wan. 

Head from the mother's bowels drawn. 

Wooded flesh and metal bone, Hmb only one and Hp only one, 

Gray-blue leaf by red-heat grown, helve produced from a little 

seed sown. 
Resting the grass amid and upon, 
To be lean'd and to lean on. 

Strong shapes and attributes of strong shapes, masculine trades, 

sights and sounds, 
Long varied train of an emblem, dabs of music. 
Fingers of the organist skipping staccato over the keys of the 

great organ. 

Welcome are all earth's lands, each for its kind, 
Welcome are lands of pine and oak. 
Welcome are lands of the lemon and fig. 
Welcome are lands of gold. 

Song of the Broad-Axe, 1 49 

Welcome are lands of wheat and maize, welcome those of the 

Welcome are lands of sugar and rice. 
Welcome the cotton-lands, welcome those of the white potato 

and sweet potato, 
Welcome are mountains, flats, sands, forests, prairies. 
Welcome the rich borders of rivers, table-lands, openings. 
Welcome the measureless grazing-lands, welcome the teeming soil 

of orchards, flax, honey, hemp ; 
Welcome just as much the other more hard-faced lands, 
Lands rich as lands of gold or wheat and fruit lands. 
Lands of mines, lands of the manly and rugged ores,^ 
Lands of coal, copper, lead, tin, zinc. 
Lands of iron — lands of the make of the axe. 

The log at the wood-pile, the axe supported by it. 

The sylvan hut, the vine over the doorway, the space clear'd for a 

The irregular tapping of rain down on the leaves after the storm 

is luird. 
The wailing and moaning at intervals, the thought of the sea. 
The thought of ships struck in the storm and put on their beam 

ends, and the cutting away of masts, 
The sentiment of the huge timbers of old-fashion'd houses and 

The remembered print or narrative, the voyage at a venture of 

men, famiHes, goods. 
The disembarkation, the founding of a new city. 
The voyage of those who sought a New England and found it, the 

outset anywhere. 
The settlements of the Arkansas, Colorado, Ottawa, Willamette, 
The slow progress, the scant fare, the axe, rifle, saddle-bags ; 
The beauty of all adventurous and daring persons. 
The beauty of wood-boys and wood-men with their clear un- 

trimm'd faces. 
The beauty of independence, departure, actions that rely on 

The American contempt for statutes and ceremonies, the bound- 
less impatience of restraint. 
The loose drift of character, the inkhng through random types, 

the solidification ; 
The butcher in the slaughter-house, the hands aboard schooners 

and sloops, the raftsman, the pioneer, 

150 Leaves of Grass, 

Lumbermen in their winter camp, daybreak in the woods, stripes 

of snow on the Hmbs of trees, the occasional snapping, 
The glad clear sound of one's own voice, the merry song, the 

natural life of the woods, the strong day's work, 
The blazing fire at night, the sweet taste of supper, the talk, the 

bed of hemlock-boughs and the bear-skin ; 
The house-builder at work in cities or anywhere. 
The preparatory jointing, squaring, sawing, mortising, 
The hoist-up of beams, the push of them in their places, laying 

them regular. 
Setting the studs by their tenons in the mortises according as they 

were prepared. 
The blows of mallets and hammers, the attitudes of the men, 

their curv'd Hmbs, 
Bending, standing, astride the beams, driving in pins, holding on 

by posts and braces. 
The hook'd arm over the plate, the other arm wielding the axe, 
The floor-men forcing the planks close to be nail'd. 
Their postures bringing their weapons downward on the bearers, 
The echoes resounding through the vacant building ; 
The huge storehouse carried up in the city well under way. 
The six framing-men, two in the middle and two at each end, 

carefully bearing on their shoulders a heavy stick for a 

The crowded line of masons with trowels in their right hands 

rapidly laying the long side-wall, two hundred feet from 

front to rear. 
The flexible rise and fall of backs, the continual click of the 

trowels striking the bricks, 
The bricks one after another each laid so workmanlike in its 

place, and set with a knock of the trowel-handle, 
The piles of materials, the mortar on the mortar-boards, and the 

steady replenishing by the hod-men ; 
Spar-makers in the spar-yard, the swarming row of well-grown 

The swing of their axes on the square-hew'd log shaping it toward 

the shape of a mast. 
The brisk short crackle of the steel driven slantingly into the pine. 
The butter-color'd chips flying off in great flakes and slivers, 
The limber motion of brawny young arms and hips in easy cos- 
The constructor of wharves, bridges, piers, bulk-heads, floats, 

stays against the sea ; 
The city fireman, the fire that suddenly bursts forth in the close- 

pack'd square, 

Song of the Broad-Axe. 151 

The arriving engines, the hoarse shouts, the nimble stepping and 

The strong command through the fire-trumpets, the falhng in Hne, 

the rise and fall of the arms forcing the water, 
The slender, spasmic, blue-white jets, the bringing to bear of the 

hooks and ladders and their execution. 
The crash and cut away of connecting wood-work, or through 

floors if the fire smoulders under them. 
The crowd with their lit faces watching, the glare and dense 

shadows ; 
The forger at his forge-furnace and the user of iron after him, 
The maker of the axe large and small, and the welder and tem- 

The chooser breathing his breath on the cold steel and trying the 

edge with his thumb. 
The one who clean-shapes the handle and sets it firmly in the 

socket ; 
The shadowy processions of the portraits of the past users also, 
The primal patient mechanics, the architects and engineers, 
The far-off Assyrian edifice and Mizra edifice, 
The Roman lictors preceding the consuls, 
The antique European warrior with his axe in combat, 
The uplifted arm, the clatter of blows on the helmeted head. 
The death-howl, the limpsy tumbling body, the rush of friend and 

foe thither, 
The siege of revolted lieges determin'd for liberty. 
The summons to surrender, the battering at castle gates, the t^^uce 

and parley. 
The sack of an old city in its time, 
The bursting in of mercenaries and bigots tumultuously and 

Roar, flames, blood, drunkenness, madness. 
Goods freely rifled from houses and temples, screams of women in 

the gripe of brigands, 
Craft and thievery of camp-followers, men running, old persons 

The hell of war, the cruelties of creeds. 
The list of all executive deeds and words just or unjust, 
The power of personality just or unjust. 

Muscle and pluck forever ! 

What invigorates life invigorates death. 

And the dead advance as much as the living advance, 

And the future is no more uncertain than the present. 

152 Leaves of Grass. 

For the roughness of the earth and of man encloses as much as 

the delicatesse of the earth and of man, 
And nothing endures but personal qualities. 

What do you think endures? 

Do you think a great city endures? 

Or a leeming manufacturing state ? or a prepared constitution ? or 

the best built steamships ? 
Or hotels of granite and iron ? or any chef-d'oeuvres of engineering, 

forts, armaments? 

Away 1 these are not to be cherish'd for themselves, 

They fill their hour, the dancers dance, the musicians play for 

The show passes, all does well enough of course. 
All does very well till one flash of defiance. 

A great city is that which has the greatest men and women, 
If it be a few ragged huts it is still the greatest city in the whole 

The place where a great city stands is not' the place of stretch'd 
wharves, docks, manufactures, deposits of produce merely, 

Nor the place of ceaseless salutes of new-comers or the anchor- 
lifters of the departing, 

Nor the place of the tallest and costliest buildings or shops selhng 
goods from the rest of the earth. 

Nor the place of the best libraries and schools, nor the place where 
money is plentiest, 

Nor the place of the most numerous population. 

Where the city stands with the brawniest breed of orators and 

Where the city stands that is belov'd by these, and loves them in 

return and understands them, 
Where no monuments exist to heroes but in the common words 

and deeds. 
Where thrift is in its place, and prudence is in its place. 
Where the men and women think lightly of the laws, 
Where the slave ceases, and the master of slaves ceases, 
Where the populace rise at once against the never-ending audacity 

of elected persons. 
Where fierce men and women pour forth as the sea to the whistle 

of death pours its sweeping and unript waves. 

Song of the Broad-Axe. 153 

Where outside authority enters always after the precedence of 

inside authority, 
Where the citizen is ahvays the head and ideal, and President, 

Mayor, Governor and what not, are agents for pay. 
Where children are taught to be laws to themselves, and to depend 

on themselves. 
Where equanimity is illustrated in affairs, 
Where speculations on the soul are encouraged. 
Where women walk in pubhc processions in the streets the same 

as the men. 
Where they enter the public assembly and take places the same as 

the men ; 
Where the city of the faithfulest friends stands. 
Where the city of the cleanliness of the sexes stands, 
Where the city of the healthiest fathers stands. 
Where the city of the best-bodied mothers stands, 
There the great city stands. 


How beggarly appear arguments before a defiant deed ! 
How the floridness of the materials of cities shrivels before a man's 
or woman's look ! 

All waits or goes by default till a strong being appears ; 

A strong being is the proof of the race and of the ability of the 

When he or she appears materials are overaw'd, 
The dispute on the soul stops, 
The old customs and phrases are confronted, turn'd back, or laid 


What is your money-making now? what can it do now? 

What is your respectability now? 

What are your theology, tuition, society, traditions, statute-books, 

Where are your jibes of being now? 
Where are your cavils about the soul now? 

A sterile landscape covers the ore, there is as good as the best for 
all the forbidding appearance. 

There is the mine, there are the miners. 

The forge-furnace is there, the melt is accomplish'd, the hammers- 
men are at hand with their tongs and hammers, 

What always served and always serves is at hand. 

154 Leaves of Grass. 

Than this nothing has better served, it has served all, 

Served the fluent-tongued and subtle-sensed Greek, and long ere 

the Greek, 
Served in building the buildings that last longer than any, 
Served the Hebrew, the Persian, the most ancient Hindustanee, 
Served the mound-raiser on the Mississippi, served those whose 

relics remain in Central America, 
Served Albic temples in woods or on plains, with unhewn pillars 

and the druids, 
Served the artificial clefts, vast, high, silent, on the snow-cover'd 

hills of Scandinavia, 
Served those who time out of mind made on the granite walls 

rough sketches of the sun, moon, stars, ships, ocean waves, 
Served the paths of the irruptions of the Goths, served the pas- 
toral tribes and nomads. 
Served the long distant Kelt, served the hardy pirates of the Baltic, 
Served before any of those the venerable and harmless men of 

Served the making of helms for the galleys of pleasure and the 

making of those for war. 
Served all great works on land and all great works on the sea, 
For the mediaeval ages and before the mediaeval ages. 
Served not the living only then as now, but served the dead. 


I see the Euiopean headsman. 

He stands mask'd, clothed in red, with huge legs and strong naked 

And leans on a ponderous axe. 

(Whom have you slaughter'd lately European headsman ? 
Whose is that blood upon you so wet and sticky?) 

I see the clear sunsets of the martyrs, 

I see from the scaffolds the descending ghosts, 

Ghosts of dead lords, uncrown'd ladies, impeach'd ministers, 

rejected kings, 
Rivals, traitors, poisoners, disgraced chieftains and the rest. 

I see those who in any land have died for the good cause, 
The seed is spare, nevertheless the crop shall never run out, 
(Mind you O foreign kings, O priests, the crop shall never run out.) 

I see the blood wash'd entirely away from the axe, 
Both blade and helve are clean, 

Song of the Broad-Axe. 155 

They spirt no more the blood of European nobles, they clasp no 
more the necks of queens. 

I see the headsman withdraw and become useless, 

I see the scaffold untrodden and mouldy, I see no longer any axe 

upon it, 
I see the mighty and friendly emblem of the power of my own 

race, the newest, largest race. 

(America ! I do not vaunt my love for you, 
I have what I have.) 

The axe leaps ! 

The solid forest gives fluid utterances, 
They tumble forth, they rise and form. 
Hut, tent, landing, survey, 
Flail, plough, pick, crowbar, spade. 
Shingle, rail, prop, wainscot, jamb, lath, panel, gable, 
Citadel, ceiling, saloon, academy, organ, exhibition-house, li- 
Cornice, trellis, pilaster, balcony, window, turret, porch, 
Hoe, rake, pitchfork, pencil, wagon, staff, saw, jack-plane, mallet, 

wedge, rounce, 
Chair, tub, hoop, table, wicket, vane, sash, floor. 
Work-box, chest, string'd instrument, boat, frame, and what not, 
Capitols of States, and capitol of the nation of States, 
Long stately rows in avenues, hospitals for orphans or for the poor 

or sick, 
Manhattan steamboats and clippers taking the measure of all seas. 

The shapes arise ! 

Shapes of the using of axes anyhow, and the users and all that 
neighbors them, 

Cutters down of wood and haulers of it to the Penobscot or Ken- 

Dwellers in cabins among the Californian mountains or by the little 
lakes, or on the Columbia, 

Dwellers south on the banks of the Gila or Rio Grande, friendly 
gatherings, the characters and fun, 

Dwellers along the St. Lawrence, or north in Kanada, or down by 
the Yellowstone, dwellers on coasts and off coasts. 

Seal-fishers, whalers, arctic seamen breaking passages through the 

156 Leaves of Grass. 

The shapes arise ! 

Shapes of factories, arsenals, foundries, markets, 

Shapes of the two-threaded tracks of railroads. 

Shapes of the sleepers of bridges, vast frameworks, girders, arches, 

Shapes of the fleets of barges, tows, lake and canal craft, river craft, 

Ship-yards and dry-docks along the Eastern and Western seas, and 
in many a bay and by-place, 

The live-oak kelsons, the pine planks, the spars, the hackmatack- 
roots for knees. 

The ships themselves on their ways, the tiers of scaffolds, the 
workmen busy outside and inside. 

The tools lying around, the great auger and little auger, the adze, 
bolt, line, square, gouge, and bead-plane. 


The shapes arise ! 

The shape measur'd, saw'd, jack'd, joined, stain'd, 

The coffin -shape for the dead to He within in his shroud. 

The shape got out in posts, in the bedstead posts, in the posts of 

the bride's bed. 
The shape of the little trough, the shape of the rockers beneath, 

the shape of the babe's cradle. 
The shape of the floor-planks, the floor-planks for dancers' feet, 
The shape of the planks of the family home, the home of the 

friendly parents and children. 
The shape of the roof of the home of the happy young man and 

woman, the roof over the well-married young man and 

The roof over the supper joyously cook'd by the chaste wife, and 

joyously eaten by the chaste husband, content after his 

day's work. 

The shapes arise ! 

The shape of the prisoner's place in the court-room, and of him 
or her seated in the place. 

The shape of the liquor-bar lean'd against by the young rum- 
drinker and the old rum-drinker. 

The shape of the shamed and angry stairs trod by sneaking foot- 

The shape of the sly settee, and the adulterous unwholesome 

The shape of the gambling-board with its devilish winnings and 

The shape of the step-ladder for the convicted and sentenced 
murderer, the murderer with haggard face and pinion'd arms, 

Song of the Exposition. 157 

The sheriff at hand with his deputies, the silent and white-lipp'd 
crowd, the dangling of the rope. 

The shapes arise ! 

Shapes of doors giving many exits and entrances, 
The door passing the dissever'd friend flush'd and in haste, 
The door that admits good news and bad news. 
The door whence the son left home confident and puff 'd up, 
The door he enter'd again from a long and scandalous absence, 
diseased, broken down, without innocence, without means. 


Her shape arises, 

She less guarded than ever, yet more guarded than ever, 

The gross and soil'd she moves among do not make her gross and 

She knows the thoughts as she passes, nothing is conceal'd from her. 
She is none the less considerate or friendly therefor, 
.She is the best belov'd, it is without exception, she has no reason 

to fear and she does not fear. 
Oaths, quarrels, hiccupp'd songs, smutty expressions, are idle to 

her as she passes. 
She is silent, she is possessed of herself, they do not offend her, 
She receives them as the laws of Nature receive them, she is strong, 
She too is a law of Nature — there is no law stronger than she is. 


The main shapes arise ! 

Shapes of Democracy total, result of centuries, 

Shapes ever projecting other shapes. 

Shapes of turbulent manly cities, 

Shapes of the friends and home-givers of the whole earth. 

Shapes bracing the earth and braced with the whole earth. 


(Ah little recks the laborer. 

How near his work is holding him to God, 

The loving Laborer through space and time.) 

After all not to create only, or found only, 

158 Leaves of Grass. 

But to bring perhaps from afar what is already founded, 

To give it our own identity, average, Umitless, free, 

To fill the gross the torpid bulk with vital religious fire, 

Not to repel or destroy so much as accept, fuse, rehabilitate, 

To obey as well as command, to follow more than to lead, 

These also are the lessons of our New World ; 

While how little the New after all, how much the Old, Old World ! 

Long and long has the grass been growing, 
Long and long has the rain been falHng, 
Long has the globe been rolling round. 

Come Muse migrate from Greece and Ionia, 

Cross out please those immensely overpaid accounts. 

That matter of Troy and Achilles' wrath, and Eneas', Odysseus' 

Placard "Removed " and "To Let " on the rocks of your snowy 

Repeat at Jerusalem, place the notice high on Jaffa's gate and on 

Mount Moriah, 
The same on the walls of your German, French and Spanish 

castles, and Italian collections. 
For know a better, freslier, busier sphere, a wide, untried domain 

awaits, demands you. 

Responsive to our summons. 

Or rather to her long-nurs'd inclination, 

Join'd with an irresistible, natural gravitation. 

She comes ! I hear the rusding of her gown, 

I scent the odor of her breath's delicious fragrance, 

I mark her step divine, her curious eyes a- turning, rolling. 

Upon this very scene. 

The dame of dames ! can I believe then. 

Those ancient temples, sculptures classic, could none of them 

retain her? 
Nor shades of Virgil and Dante, nor myriad memories, poems, 

old associations, magnetize and hold on to her? 
But that she's left them all — and here? 

Yes, if you will allow me to say so, 

I, my friends, if you do not, can plainly see her. 

Song of the Exposition, I59 

The same undying soul of earth's, activity's, beauty's, heroism's 

Out from her evolutions hither come, ended the strata of her 

former themes, 
Hidden and cover'd by to-day's, foundation of to-day's. 
Ended, deceas'd through time, her voice by Castaly's fountain, 
Silent the broken-lipp'd Sphynx in Egypt, silent all those century- 
baffling tombs. 
Ended for aye the epics of Asia's, Europe's helmeted warriors, 

ended the primitive call of the muses. 
Calliope's call forever closed, Clio, Melpomene, Thalia dead. 
Ended the stately rhythmus of Una and Oriana, ended the quest 

of the holy Graal, 
Jerusalem a handful of ashes blown by the wind, extinct, * 

The Crusaders' streams of shadowy midnight troops sped with the 

Amadis, Tancred, utterly gone, Charlemagne, Roland, Oliver gone, 
Palmerin, ogre, departed, vanish'd the turrets that Usk from its 

waters reflected, 
Arthur vanish'd with all his knights. Merlin and Lancelot and 

Galahad, all gone, dissolv'd utterly like an exhalation ; 
Pass'd ! pass'd ! for us, forever pass'd, that once so mighty world, 

now void, inanimate, phantom world, 
Embroider'd, dazzhng, foreign world, with all its gorgeous legends, 

Its kings and castles proud, its priests and warlike lords and 

courtly dames, 
Pass'd to its charnel vault, cofifin'd with crown and armor on, 
Blazon'd with Shakspere's purple page. 
And dirged by Tennyson's sweet sad rhyme. 

I say I see, my friends, if you do not, the illustrious -emigr^, 
(having it is true in her day, although the same, changed, 
journey'd considerable,) 

Making directly for this rendezvous, vigorously clearing a path for 
herself, striding through the confusion, 

By thud of machinery and shrill steam-whistle undismay'd, 

Bluff'd not a bit by drain-pipe, gasometers, artificial fertilizers, 

Smiling and pleas'd with palpable intent to stay, 

She's here, install'd amid the kitchen ware ! 

But hold — don't I forget my manners ? 

To introduce the stranger, (what else indeed do I live to chant 
for?) to thee Columbia; 

i6o * Leaves of Grass. 

In liberty's name welcome immortal ! clasp hands, 
And ever henceforth sisters dear be both. 

Fear not O Muse ! truly new ways and days receive, surround you, 
I candidly confess a queer, queer race, of novel fashion, 
And yet the same old human race, the same within, without, 
Faces and hearts the same, feelings the same, yearnings the same, 
The same old love, beauty and use the same. 

We do not blame thee elder World, nor really separate ourselves 

from thee, 
(Would the son separate himself from the father?) 
Looking back on thee, seeing thee to thy duties, grandeurs, 

through past ages bending, building, 
We build to ours to-day. 

Mightier than Egypt's tombs, 
Fairer than Grecia's, Roma's temples. 
Prouder than Milan's statued, spired cathedral. 
More picturesque than Rhenish castle-keeps, 
We plan even now to raise, beyond them all, 
Thy great cathedral sacred industry, no tomb, 
A keep for life for practical invention. 

As in a waking vision. 

E'en while I chant I see it rise, I scan and prophesy outside 

and in. 
Its manifold ensemble. 

Around a palace, loftier, fairer, ampler than any yet. 

Earth's modern wonder, history's seven outstripping, 

High rising tier on tier with glass and iron fagades. 

Gladdening the sun and sky, enhued in cheerfulest hues, 

Bronze, lilac, robin's-egg, marine and crimson. 

Over whose golden roof shall flaunt, beneath thy banner Freedom, 

The banners of the States and flags of every land, 

A brood of lofty, fair, but lesser palaces shall cluster. 

Somewhere within their walls shall all that forwards perfect human 

life be started, 
Tried, taught, advanced, visibly exhibited. 

Not only all the world of works, trade, products, 

But all the workmen of the world here to be represented. 

Song of the Exposition'. l6l 

Here shall you trace in flowing operation, 

In every state of practical, busy movement, the rills of civilization, 

Materials here under your eye shall change their shape as if by 

The cotton shall be pick'd almost in the very field. 
Shall be dried, clean'd, ginn'd, baled, spun into thread and cloth 

before you. 
You shall see hands at work at all the old processes and all the 

new ones. 
You shall see the various grains and how flour is made and then 

bread baked by the bakers. 
You shall see the crude ores of California and Nevada passing on 

and on till they become bullion. 
You shall watch how the printer sets type, and learn what a com- 
posing-stick is, 
You shall mark in amazement the Hoe press whirling its cylinders, 

shedding the printed leaves steady and fast. 
The photograph, model, watch, pin, nail, shall be created before 


In large calm halls, a stately museum shall teach you the infinite 

lessons of minerals. 
In another, woods, plants, vegetation shall be illustrated — in 

another animals, animal life and development. 

One stately house shall be the music house. 
Others for other arts — learning, the sciences, shall all be here. 
None shall be slighted, none but shall here be honor'd, help'd, 

(This, this and these, America, shall be your pyramids and 

Your Alexandrian Pharos, gardens of Babylon, 
Your temple at Olympia.) 

The male and female many laboring not. 
Shall ever here confront the laboring many, 
With precious benefits to both, glory to all, 
To thee America, and thee eternal Muse. 

And here shall ye inhabit powerful Matrons ! 

In your vast state vaster than all the old, 

Echoed through long, long centuries to come. 

To sound of different, prouder songs, with stronger themes, 

1 62 Leaves of Grass. 

Practical, peaceful life, the people's life, the People themselves, 
Lifted, illumin'd, bathed in peace — elate, secure in peace. 

Away with themes of war ! away with war itself ! 

Hence from my shuddering sight to never more return that show 

of blacken'd, mutilated corpses I 
That hell unpent and raid of blood, fit for wild tigers or for lop- 

tongued wolves, not reasoning men, 
And in its stead speed industry's campaigns, 
With thy undaunted armies, engineering. 
Thy pennants labor, loosen'd to the breeze, 
Thy bugles sounding loud and clear. 

Away with old romance ! 

Away with novels, plots and plays of foreign courts, 

Away with love-verses sugar'd in rhyme, the intrigues, amours of 

Fitted for only banquets of the night where dancers to late music 

The unhealthy pleasures, extravagant dissipations of the few, 
With perfumes, heat and wine, beneath the dazzling chandeliers. 

To you ye reverent sane sisters, 

I raise a voice for far superber themes for poets and for art, 

To exalt the present and the real. 

To teach the average man the glory of his daily walk and trade, 

To sing in songs how exercise and chemical life are never to be 

To manual work for each and all, to plough, hoe, dig, 

To plant and tend the tree, the berry, vegetables, flov/ers. 

For every man to see to it that he really do something, for every 
woman too ; 

To use the hammer and the saw, (rip, or cross-cut,) 

To cultivate a turn for carpentering, plastering, painting. 

To work as tailor, tailoress, nurse, hostler, porter. 

To invent a little, something ingenious, to aid the washing, cook- 
ing, cleaning, 

And hold it no disgrace to take a hand at them themselves. 

I say I bring thee Muse to-day and here, 

All occupations, duties broad and close, 

Toil, healthy toil and sweat, endless, without cessation, 

The old, old practical burdens, interests, joys. 

Song of the Exposition-. 1 63 

The family, parentage, childhood, husband and wife, 

The house-comforts, the house itself and all its belongings, 

Food and its preservation, chemistry applied to it, 

Whatever forms the average, strong, complete, sweet-blooded man 

or woman, the perfect longeve personality. 
And helps its present life to health and happiness, and shapes its soul, 
For the eternal real life to come. 

With latest connections, works, the inter-transportation of the world, 

Steam-power, the great express lines, gas, petroleum. 

These triumphs of our time, the Atlantic's delicate cable. 

The Pacific railroad, the Suez canal, the Mont Cenis and Gothard 

and Hoosac tunnels, the Brooklyn bridge. 
This earth all spann'd with iron rails, with lines of steamships 

threading every sea. 
Our own rondure, the current globe I bring. 


And thou America, 

Thy offspring towering e'er so high, yet higher Thee above all 

With Victory on thy left, and at thy right hand Law ; 
Thou Union holding all, fusing, absorbing, tolerating all, 
Thee, ever thee, I sing. 

Thou, also thou, a World, 

With all thy wide geographies, manifold, different, distant, 
Rounded by thee in one — one common orbic language, 
One common indivisible destiny for All. 

And by the spells which ye vouchsafe to those your ministers in 

I here personify and call my themes, to make them pass before ye. 

Behold, America ! (and thou, ineffable guest and sister !) 
For thee come trooping up thy waters and thy lands ; 
Behold ! thy fields and farms, thy far-off woods and mountains, 
As in procession coming. 

Behold, the sea itself. 

And on its limitless, heaving breast, the ships ; 

See, where their white sails, bellying in the wind, speckle the green 

and blue. 
See, the steamers coming and going, steaming in or out of port. 
See, dusky and undulating, the long pennants of smoke. 

164 Leaves of Grass. 

Behold, in Oregon, far in the north and west, 

Or in Maine, far in the north and east, thy cheerful axemen, 

Wielding all day their axes. 

Behold, on the lakes, thy pilots at their wheels, thy oarsmen, 
How the ash writhes under those muscular arms ! 

There by the furnace, and there by the anvil, 
Behold thy sturdy blacksmiths swinging their sledges. 
Overhand so steady, overhand they turn and fall with joyous clank. 
Like a tumult of laughter. 

Mark the spirit of invention everywhere, thy rapid patents. 
Thy continual workshops, foundries, risen or rising. 
See, from their chimneys how the tall flame-fires stream. 

Mark, thy interminable farms. North, South, 

Thy w^ealthy daughter-states. Eastern and Western, 

The varied products of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Georgia, 

Texas, and the rest, 
Thy limitless crops, grass, wheat, sugar, oil, corn, rice, hemp, hops. 
Thy barns all fiU'd, the endless freight-train and the bulging 

The grapes that ripen on thy vines, the apples in thy orchards. 
Thy incalculable lumber, beef, pork, potatoes, thy coal, thy gold 

and silver. 
The inexhaustible iron in thy mines. 

All thine O sacred Union 1 

Ships, farms, shops, barns, factories, mines. 

City and State, North, South, item and aggregate, 

We dedicate, dread Mother, all to thee ! 

Protectress absolute, thou ! bulwark of all ! 

For well we know that while thou givest each and all, (generous 

as God,) 
Without thee neither all nor each, nor land, home. 
Nor ship, nor mine, nor any here this day secure, 
Nor aught, nor any day secure. 


And thou, the Emblem waving over all ! 
Delicate beauty, a word to thee, (it may be salutary,) 
Remember thou hast not always been as here to-day so comfortably 

Song of the Redwood-Tree. 1 65 

In other scenes than these have I observ'd thee flag, 
Not quite so trim and whole and freshly blooming in folds of stain- 
less silk, 
But I have seen thee bunting, to tatters torn upon thy sphnter'd staff, 
Or clutch'd to some young color-bearer's breast with desperate hands, 
Savagely struggled for, for life or death, fought over long, 
'Mid cannons' thunder-crash and many a curse and groan and yell, 

and rifle-volleys cracking sharp, 
And moving masses as wild demons surging, and lives as nothing 

For thy mere remnant grimed with dirt and smoke and sopp'd in 

For sake of that, my beauty, and that thou might'st dally as now 

secure up there, 
Many a good man have I seen go under. 

Now here and these and hence in peace, all thine O Flag ! 
And here and hence for thee, O universal Muse ! and thou for them ! 
And here and hence O Union, all the work and workmen thine ! - 
None separate from thee — henceforth One only, we and thou, 
(For the blood of the children, what is it, only the blood 

maternal ? 
And lives and works, what are they all at last, except the roads to 

faith and death?) 

While we rehearse our measureless wealth, it is for thee, dear 

We own it all and several to-day indissoluble in thee ; 
Think not our chant, our show, merely for products gross or lucre 

— it is for thee, the soul in thee, electric, spiritual ! 
Our farms, inventions, crops, we own in thee ! cities and States in 

thee ! 
Our freedom all in thee ! our very lives in thee ! 



A California song, 

A prophecy and indirection, a thought impalpable to breathe as air, 
A chorus of dryads, fading, departing, or hamadryads departing, 
A murmuring, fateful, giant voice, out of the earth and sky, 
Voice of a mighty dying tree in the redwood forest dense. 

1 66 Leaves of Grass. 

Farewell my brethren^ 

Farewell O earth and sky, farewell ye neighboring waters, 

My ti7ne has ended, 7?iy terin has come. 

Along the northern coast, 

Just back from the rock-bound shore and the caves, 

In the saHne air from the sea in the Mendocino country, 

With the surge for base and accompaniment low and hoarse, 

With crackling blows of axes sounding musically driven by strong 

Riven deep by the sharp tongues of the axes, there in the redwood 

forest dense, 
I heard the mighty tree its death- chant chanting. 

The choppers heard not, the camp shanties echoed not, 

The quick-ear'd teamsters and chain and jack-screw men heard 

As the wood-spirits came from their haunts of a thousand years to 

join the refrain, 
But in my soul I plainly heard. 

Murmuring out of its myriad leaves, 
Down from its lofty top rising two hundred feet high. 
Out of its stalwart trunk and limbs, out of its foot-thick bark. 
That chant of the seasons and time, chant not of the past only 
but the future. 

You untold life of 7ne, 

A?td all you venerable and innocent joys, 

Perennial hardy life of me with Joys ^mid rain and many a 

su77tmer sun. 
And the white snows and night and the wild ivinds ; 
O the great patieiit rugged joys, my soul's strong joys unreclz'd by 

{For know I bear the soul befitting me, I too have consciousness, 

And all the rocks and mountains have, and all the earth,^ 
y^oys of the life befitting me and brothers mine^ 
Our time, our term has come. 

Nor yield we mournfully majestic b?'others, 

We who have grandly fiWd our time ; 

With Nature^ s calm content, with tacit huge delight. 

We welcome what we wrought for through the past, 

And leave the field for the?n. 

Song of the Redwood-Tree. 167 

For them predicted long, 

For a siiperber race, they too to g7'andly fill their time, 

For them we abdicate, in them ourselves ye forest ki7tgs ! 

In them these skies and airs, these 7nountain peaks, Shasta, 

These huge precipitous cliffs, this amplitude, these valleys, far 

Yo Semite, 
To be in them absorbed, assimilated. 

Then to a loftier strain, 
Still prouder, more ecstatic rose the chant, 
As if the heirs, the deities of the West, 
Joining with master-tongue bore part. 

Not wan from Asia'^s fetiches, 

Nor red f'om Eu7'ope''s old dynastic slaughter-hoicse, 

{^Area of murder-plots of thro72es, with scent left yet of wars and 

scaffolds evejywhere,^ 
But come from Nature's long and harmless tJwoes, peacefully 

builded thence. 
These virgin lands, lands of the Western shore. 
To the neiv culminating man, to you, the ejnpire new, 
You promised long, we pledge, we dedicate. 

You occult deep volitioits, 

You average spiritual manhood, purpose of all, poised on you7^self, 

giving not taking law, 
Yoic womanhood diviiie, mistress and source of all, whence life 

and love and aught that comes from life and love, 
You unseen moral essence of all the vast mater^ials of America, 

{age upon age working in death the sa77ie as life,) 
You that, sometirnes k7tow7i, oftener unk7tow7t, j^eally shape and 

mould the New World, adfustirig it to Time a7id Space, 
You hidde7i ftational will lying i7i your abysms, cortceaT d but ever 

You past and present pU7poses tenaciously pU7'sued, 7nay-be U7ic07t- 

scious of yourselves, 
Unswefv'd by all the passing errors, perturbatiofts of the surface ; 
You vital, U7iive7^sal, deathless gei'-ms, be7teath all creeds, a7'ts, 

statutes, literatures. 
Here build your homes for good, establish he7'e, these areas entire, 

la7tds of the Wester7i shore^ 
We pledge, we dedicate to you. 

For 77ia7i of you, your characteristic race, 

1 68 Leaves of Grass. 

Here 77tay he hardy, sweet, gigantic grow, here tower proportion- 
ate to Nature, 

Here climb the vast ptire spaces unconfined, tinchecJi'd by wall or 

Here laugh with storm or sun, here joy, here patiently inure, 

Here heed Jmiiself, unfold himself, {not others' formulas heed,) 
here fill his ti?ne. 

To duly fall, to aid, unreckUl at last, 

To disappear, to serve. 

Thus on the northern coast, 

In the echo of teamsters' calls and the clinking chains, and the 

music of choppers' axes, 
The falling trunk and limbs, the crash, the muffled shriek, the 

Such words combined from the redwood-tree, as of voices ecstatic, 

ancient and rusthng, 
The century-lasting, unseen dryads, singing, withdrawing, 
All their recesses of forests and mountains leaving, 
From the Cascade range to the Wahsatch, or Idaho far, or Utah, 
To the deities of the modern henceforth yielding, 
The chorus and indications, the vistas of coming humanity, the 

settlements, features all. 
In the Mendocino woods I caught. 

The flashing and golden pageant of California, 
The sudden and gorgeous drama, the sunny and ample lands, 
The long and varied stretch from Puget sound to Colorado south. 
Lands bathed in sweeter, rarer, healthier air, valleys and mountain 

The fields of Nature long prepared and fallow, the silent, cyclic 

The slow and steady ages plodding, the unoccupied surface ripen- 
ing, the rich ores forming beneath ; 
At last the New arriving, assuming, taking possession, 
A swarming and busy race settling and organizing everywhere, 
Ships coming in from the whole round world, and going out to 

the whole world. 
To India and China and Australia and the thousand island para- 
dises of the Pacific, 
Populous cities, the latest inventions, the steamers on the rivers, 

the railroads, with many a thrifty farm, with machinery, 
And wool and wheat and the grape, and diggings of yellow gold. 

A Song for Occupations. 169 

But more in you than these, lands of the Western shore, 

(These but the means, the implements, the standing-ground,) 

I see in you, certain to come, the promise of thousands of years, 

till now deferr'd. 
Promised to be fulfill'd, our common kind, the race. 

The new society at last, proportionate to Nature, 

In man of you, more than your mountain peaks or stalwart trees 

In woman more, far more, than all your gold or vines, or even 

vital air. 

Fresh come, to a new world indeed, yet long prepared, 

I see the genius of the modern, child of the real and ideal, 

Clearing the ground for broad humanity, the true America, heir 

of the past so grand. 
To build a grander future. 



A SONG for occupations ! 

In the labor of engines and trades and the labor of fields I find 

the developments. 
And find the eternal meanings. 

Workmen and Workwomen ! 

Were all educations practical and ornamental well displayed out 

of me, what would it amount to ? 
Were I as the head teacher, charitable proprietor, wise statesman, 

what would it amount to ? 
Were I to you as the boss employing and paying you, would that 

satisfy you ? 

The learn'd, virtuous, benevolent, and the usual terms, 
A man like me and never the usual terms. 

Neither a servant nor a master I, 

I take no sooner a large price than a small price, I will have my 

own whoever enjoys me, 
I will be even with you and you shall be even with me. 

I/O Leaves of Grass. 

If you stand at work in a shop I stand as nigh as the nighest in 

the same shop, 
If you bestow gifts on your brother or dearest friend I demand as 

good as your brother or dearest friend, 
If your lover, husband, wife, is welcome by day or night, I must 

be personally as welcome. 
If you become degraded, criminal, ill, then I become so for your 

If you remember your foolish and outlaw'd deeds, do you think 

I cannot remember my own fooHsh and outlaw'd deeds? 
If you carouse at the table I carouse at the opposite side of the 

If you meet some stranger in the streets and love him or her, why 

I often meet strangers in the street and love them. 

Why what have you thought of yourself? 

Is it you then that thought yourself less ? 

Is it you that thought the President greater than you ? 

Or the rich better off than you ? or the educated wiser than you ? 

(Because you are greasy or pimpled, or were once drunk, or a 

Or that you are diseased, or rheumatic, or a prostitute. 
Or from frivolity or impotence, or that you are no scholar and 

never saw your name in print, 
Do you give in that you are any less immortal ?) 

Souls of men and women ! it is not you I call unseen, unheard, 

untouchable and untouching, 
It is not you I go argue pro and con about, and to settle whether 

you are alive or no, 
I own pubHcly who you are if nobody else owns. 

Grown, half-grown and babe, of this country and every country, in- 
doors and out-doors, one just as much as the other, I see, 
And all else behind or through them. 

The wife, and she is not one jot less than the husband, 
The daughter, and she is just as good as the son, 
The mother, and she is every bit as much as the father. 

Offspring of ignorant and poor, boys apprenticed to trades. 
Young fellows working on farms and old fellows working on farms, 
Sailor-men, merchant-men, coasters, immigrants, 

A Song for Occupations. 171 

All these I see, but nigher and farther the same I see, 
None shall escape me and none shall wish to escape me. 

I bring what you much need yet always have, 
Not money, amours, dress, eating, erudition, but as good, 
I send no agent or medium, offer no representative of value, but 
offer the value itself. 

There is something that comes to one now and perpetually. 

It is not what is printed, preach'd, discussed, it eludes discussion 

and print. 
It is not to be put in a book, it is not in this book, 
It is for you whoever you are, it is no farther from you than your 

hearing and sight are from you. 
It is hinted by nearest, commonest, readiest, it is ever provoked 

by them. 

You may read in many languages, yet read nothing about it. 

You may read the President's message and read nothing about it 

Nothing in the reports from the State department or Treasury 

department, or in the daily papers or weekly papers. 
Or in the census or revenue returns, prices current, or any 

accounts of stock. 

The sun and stars that float in the open air. 

The apple-shaped earth and we upon it, surely the drift of them 

is something grand, 
I do not know what it is except that it is grand, and that it is 

And that the enclosing purport of us here is not a speculation or 

bon-mot or reconnoissance. 
And that it is not something which by luck may turn out well for 

us, and without luck must be a failure for us. 
And not something which may yet be retracted in a certain 


The light and shade, the curious sense of body and identity, the 
greed that with perfect complaisance devours all things. 

The endless pride and outstretching of man, unspeakable joys 
and sorrows. 

The wonder every one sees in every one else he sees, and the 
wonders that fill each minute of time forever, 

What have you reckon'd them for, camerado ? . . 

172 Leaves of Grass. 

Have you reckon'd them for your trade or farm-work? or for the 

profits of your store ? 
Or to achieve yourself a position ? or to fill a gentleman's leisure, 

or a lady's leisure ? 

Have you reckon'd that the landscape took substance and form 
that it might be painted in a picture ? 

Or men and women that they might be written of, and songs sung ? 

Or the attraction of gravity, and the great laws and harmonious 
. combinations and the fluids of the air, as subjects for the 
savans ? 

Or the brown land and the blue sea for maps and charts? 

Or the stars to be put in constellations and named fancy names ? 

Or that the growth of seeds is for agricultural tables, or agricul- 
ture itself ? 

Old institutions, these arts, libraries, legends, collections, and the 
practice handed along in manufactures, will we rate them 
so high? 
Will we rate our cash and business high? I have no objection, 
I rate them as high as the highest — then a child born of a 
woman and man I rate beyond all rate. 

We thought our Union grand, and our Constitution grand, 
I do not say they are not grand and good, for they are, 
I am this day just as much in love with them as you. 
Then I am in love with You, and with all my fellows upon the 

We consider bibles and religions divine — I do not say they are 

not divine, 
I say they have all grown out of you, and may grow out of you 

It is not they who give the life, it is you who give the life, 
Leaves are not more shed from the trees, or trees from the earth, 

than they are shed out of you. 

The sum of all known reverence I add up in you whoever you are, 
The President is there in the White House for you, it is not you 

who are here for him. 
The Secretaries act in their bureaus for you, not you here for them, 
The Congress convenes every Twelfth-month for you, 
Laws, courts, the forming of States, the charters of cities, the 

going and coming of commerce and mails, are all for you. 

A Song for Occupations. 173 

List close my scholars dear, 

Doctrines, politics and civilization exurge from you. 

Sculpture and monuments and any thing inscribed anywhere are 

tallied in you, 
The gist of histories and statistics as far back as the records reach 

is in you this hour, and myths and tales the same. 
If you were not breathing and walking here, where would they 

all be? 
The most renown'd poems would be ashes, orations and plays 

would be vacuums. 

All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it, 
(Did you think it was in the white or gray stone ? or the lines of 
the arches and cornices ?) 

All music is what awakes from you when you are reminded by the 

It is not the violins and the cornets, it is not the oboe nor the 

beating drums, nor the score of the baritone singer singing 

his sweet romanza, nor that of the men's chorus^ nor that 

of the women's chorus. 
It IS nearer and farther than they. 

Will the whole come back then ? 
Can each see signs of the best by a look in the looking-glass? is 

there nothing greater or more ? 
Does all sit there with you, with the mystic unseen soul? 

Strange and hard that paradox true I give. 
Objects gross and the unseen soul are one. 

House-building, measuring, sawing the boards, 

Blacksmithing, glass-blowing, nail-making, coopering, tin-roofing, 

Ship-joining, dock-building, fish-curing, flagging of sidewalks by 

The pump, the pile-driver, the great derrick, the coal-kiln and 

Coal-mines and all that is down there, the lamps in the darkness, 

echoes, songs, what meditations, what vast native thoughts 

looking through smutch'd faces. 
Iron-works, forge-fires in the mountains or by river-banks, men 

around feeling the melt with huge crowbars, lumps of ore, 

the due combining of ore, limestone, coal, 

1/4 Leaves of Grass. 

The blast-furnace and the puddling-furnace, the loup-lump at the 
bottom of the melt at last, the rolling-mill, the stumpy 
bars of pig-iron, the strong clean-shaped T-rail for rail- 

Oil-works, silk-works, white-lead-works, the sugar-house, steam- 
saws, the great mills and factories. 

Stone-cutting, shapely trimmings for fagades or window or door- 
hntels, the mallet, the tooth-chisel, the jib to protect the 

The calking-iron, the kettle of boiling vault-cement, and the fire 
under the kettle. 

The cotton-bale, the stevedore's hook, the saw and buck of the 
sawyer, the mould of the moulder, the working-knife of 
the butcher, the ice-saw, and all the work with ice. 

The work and tools of the rigger, grappler, sail-maker, block- 

Goods of gutta-percha, papier-mache, colors, brushes, brush- 
making, glazier's implements. 

The veneer and glue-pot, the confectioner's ornaments, the 
decanter and glasses, the shears and flat-iron, 

The awl and knee-strap, the pint measure and quart measure, the 
counter and stool, the writing-pen of quill or metal, the 
making of all sorts of edged tools. 

The brewery, brewing, the malt, the vats, every thing that is done 
by brewers, wine-makers, vinegar-makers. 

Leather-dressing, coach-making, boiler-making, rope-twisting, dis- 
tilling, sign-painting, lime-burning, cotton-picking, electro- 
plating, electrotyping, stereotyping, 

Stave-machines, planing-machines, reaping-machines, ploughing- 
machines, thrashing-machines, steam wagons. 

The cart of the carman, the omnibus, the ponderous dray, 

Pyrotechny, letting off color'd fireworks at night, fancy figures and 

Beef on the butcher's stall, the slaughter-house of the butcher, the 
butcher in his killing-clothes. 

The pens of live po.rk, the killing-hammer, the hog-hook, the 
scalder's tab, gutting, the cutter's cleaver, the packer's maul, 
and the plenteous winterwork of pork-packing. 

Flour-works, grinding of wheat, rye, maize, rice, the barrels and 
the half and quarter barrels, the loaded barges, the high 
piles on wharves and levees. 

The men and the work of the men on ferries, railroads, coasters, 
fish-boats, canals ; 

The hourly routine of your own or any man's life, the shop, yard, 
store, or factory, 

A Song for Occupations. 1/5 

These shows all near you by day and night — workman ! whoever 
you are, your daily life ! 

In that and them the heft of the heaviest — in that and them far 
more than you estimated, (and far less also,) 

In them reahties for you and me, in them poems for you and me, 

In them, not yourself — you and your soul enclose all things, re- 
gardless of estimation, 

In them the development good — in them all themes, hints, possi- 

I do not affirm that what you see beyond is futile, I do not advise 

you to stop, 
I do not say leadings you thought great are not great, 
But I say that none lead to greater than these lead to. 

Will you seek afar off ? you surely come back at last. 

In things best known to you finding the best, or as good as the 

In folks nearest to you finding the sweetest, strongest, lovingest, 
Happiness, knowledge, not m another place but this place, not for 

another hour but this hour, 
Man in the first you see or touch, always in friend, brother, 

nighest neighbor — woman in mother, sister, wife, 
.The popular tastes and employments taking precedence in poems 

or anywhere. 
You workwomen and workmen of these States having your own 

divine and strong life, 
And all else giving place to men and women like you. 

When the psalm sings instead of the singer, 

When the script preaches instead of the preacher. 

When the pulpit descends and goes instead of the carver that 

carved the supporting desk. 
When I can touch the body of books by night or by day, and 

when they touch my body back again, 
When a university course convinces like a slumbering woman and 

child convince. 
When the minted gold in the vault smiles like the night-watchman's 

When warrantee deeds loafe in chairs opposite and are my friendly 

I intend to reach them my hand, and make as much of them as 

I do of men and women like you. 

1/6 Leaves of Grass. 


A SONG of the rolling earth, and of words according, 

Were you thinking that those were the words, those upright lines? 

those curves, angles, dots? 
No, those are not the words, the substantial words are in the 

ground and sea. 
They are in the air, they are in you. 

Were you thinking that those were the words, those delicious sounds 

out of your friends' mouths ? 
No, the real words are more delicious than they. 

Human bodies are words, myriads of words, 

(In the best poems re-appears the body, man's or woman's, well- 
shaped, natural, gay. 

Every part able, active, receptive, without shame or the need of 

Air, soil, water, fire — those are words, 

I myself am a word with them — my qualities interpenetrate with 

theirs — my name is nothing to them, 
Though it were told in the three thousand languages, what would 

air, soil, water, fire, know of my name ? 

A healthy presence, a friendly or commanding gesture, are words, 

sayings, meanings. 
The charms that go with the mere looks of some men and women, 

are sayings and meanings also. 

The workmanship of souls is by those inaudible words of the earth. 
The masters know the earth's words and use them more than 
audible words. 

Amelioration is one of the earth's words, 
The earth neither lags nor hastens. 

It has all attributes, growths, effects, latent in itself from the jump, 
It is not half beautiful only, defects and excrescences show just as 
much as perfections show. 

The earth does not withhold, it is generous enough. 
The truths of the earth continually wait, they are not so conceal'd 

A Song of the Rolling Earth, 177 

They are calm, subtle, untransmissible by print, 

They are imbued through all things conveying themselves willingly, 

Conve)ang a sentiment and invitation, I utter and utter, 

I speak not, yet if you hear me not of what avail am I to you ? 

To bear, to better, lacking these of what avail am I ? 

(Accouche ! accouchez ! 

Will you rot your own fruit in yourself there ? 

Will you squat and stifle there ?) 

The earth does not argue, 

Is not pathetic, has no arrangements. 

Does not scream, haste, persuade, threaten, promise, 

Makes no discriminations, has no conceivable failures, 

Closes nothing, refuses nothing, shuts none out. 

Of all the powers, objects, states, it notifies, shuts none out. 

The earth does not exhibit itself nor refuse to exhibit itself, pos- 
sesses still underneath. 

Underneath the ostensible sounds, the august chorus of heroes, the 
wail of slaves. 

Persuasions of lovers, curses, gasps of the dying, laughter of young 
people, accents of bargainers. 

Underneath these possessing words that never fail. 

To her children the words of the eloquent dumb great mother 

never fail. 
The true words do not fail, for motion does not fail and reflection 

does not fail. 
Also the day and night do not fail, and the voyage we pursue does 

not fail. 

Of the interminable sisters. 

Of the ceaseless cotillons of sisters. 

Of the centripetal and centrifugal sisters, the elder and younger 

The beautiful sister we know dances on with the rest. 

With her ample back towards every beholder, 

With the fascinations of youth and the equal fascinations of age, 

Sits she whom I too love like the rest, sits undisturb'd. 

Holding up in her hand what has the character of a mirror, while 

her eyes glance back from it. 
Glance as she sits, inviting none, denying none. 
Holding a mirror day and night tirelessly before her own face. 

1 78 Leaves OF Grass. 

Seen at hand or seen at a distance, 
Duly the twenty -four appear in pubHc every day, 
Duly approach and pass with their companions or a companion, 
Looking from no countenances of their own, but from the counte- 
nances of those who are with them, 
From the countenances of children or women or the manly coun- 
From the open countenances of animals or from inanimate things, 
From the landscape or waters or from the exquisite apparition of 

the sky. 
From our countenances, mine and yours, faithfully returning them, 
Every day in public appearing without fail, but never twice with 
the same companions. 

Embracing man, embracing all, proceed the three hundred and 

sixty-five resistlessly round the sun ; 
Embracing all, soothing, supporting, follow close three hundred 

and sixty-five offsets of the first, sure and necessary as they. 

Tumbling on steadily, nothing dreading. 

Sunshine, storm, cold, heat, forever withstanding, passing, carrying, 

The soul's realization and determination still inheriting, 

The fluid vacuum around and ahead still entering and dividing, 

No balk retarding, no anchor anchoring, on no rock striking, 

Swift, glad, content, unbereav'd, nothing losing, 

Of all able and ready at any time to give strict account, 

The divine ship sails the divine sea. 

Whoever you are ! motion and reflection are especially for you, 
The divine ship sails the divine sea for you. 

Whoever you are ! you are he or she for whom the earth is solid 

and liquid. 
You are he or she for whom the sun and moon hang in the sky, 
For none more than you are the present and the past. 
For none more than you is immortality. 

Each man to himself and each woman to herself, is the word of 

the past and present, and the true word of immortahty ; 
No one can acquire for another — not one. 
Not one can grow for another — not one. 

The song is to the singer, and comes back most to him. 
The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back most to him, 

A Song of the Rolling Earth. 179 

The murder is to the murderer, and comes back most to him, 

The theft is to the thief, and comes back most to him, 

The love is to the lover, and comes back most to him. 

The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him — it cannot 

The oration is to the orator, the acting is to the actor and actress 

not to the audience, 
And no man understands any greatness or goodness but his own, 

or the indication of his own. 


I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall 

be complete, 
The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who 

remains jagged and broken. 

I swear there is no greatness or power that does not emulate 

those of the earth, 
There can be no theory of any account unless it corroborate the 

theory of the earth. 
No politics, song, religion, behavior, or what not, is of account, 

unless it compare with the amplitude of the earth. 
Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiaUty, rectitude of the 


I swear I begin to see love with sweeter spasms than that which 

responds love. 
It is that which contains itself, which never invites and never 


I swear I begin to see little or nothing in audible words. 

All merges toward the presentation of the unspoken meanings 
of the earth. 

Toward him who sings the songs of the body and of the truths 
of the earth, 

Toward him who makes the dictionaries of words that print can- 
not touch. 

I swear I see what is better than to tell the best, 
It is always to leave the best untold. 

When I undertake to tell the best I find I cannot, 
My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots, 
My breath will not be obedient to its organs, 
I become a dumb man. 

l8o Leaves of Grass. 

The best of the earth cannot be told anyhow, all or any is best, 

It is not what you anticipated, it is cheaper, easier, nearer, 

Things are not dismissed from the places they held before. 

The earth is just as positive and direct as it was before. 

Facts, religions, improvements, politics, trades, are as real as before, 

But the soul is also real, it too is positive and direct. 

No reasoning, no proof has establish'd it, 

Undeniable growth has establish'd it. 

These to echo the tones of souls and the phrases of souls, 
(If they did not echo the phrases of souls what were they then? 
If they had not reference to you in especial what were they then ?) 

I swear I will never henceforth have to do with the faith that tells 

the best, 
I will have to do only with that faith that leaves the best untold. 

Say on, sayers ! sing on, singers ! 
Delve ! mould ! pile the words of the earth ! 
Work on, age after age, nothing is to be lost. 
It may have to wait long, but it will certainly come in use, 
When the materials are all prepared and ready, the architects shall 

I swear to you the architects shall appear without fail, 

I swear to you they will understand you and justify you. 

The greatest among them shall be he who best knows you, and 

encloses all and is faithful to all, 
He and the rest shall not forget you, they shall perceive that you 

are not an iota less than they. 
You shall be fully glorified in them. 


Youth, large, lusty, loving — youth full of grace, force, fascination. 
Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace, 
force, fascination? 

Day full-blown and splendid — day of the immense sun, action, 

ambition, laughter. 
The Night follows close with millions of suns, and sleep and 

restoring darkness. 

Birds of Passage. i8l 




Come said the Muse, 

Sing me a song no poet yet has chanted, 

Sing me the universal. 

In this broad earth of ours, 
Amid the measureless grossness and the slag, 
Enclosed and safe within its central heart, 
Nestles the seed perfection. 

By every life a share or more or less. 

None born but it is born, conceal'd or unconceal'd the seed is 

Lo ! keen-eyed towering science, 

As from tall peaks the modern overlooking, 

Successive absolute fiats issuing. 

Yet again, lo ! the soul, above all science. 

For it has history gather'd like husks around the globe, 

For it the entire star-myriads roll through the sky. 

In spiral routes by long detours, 
(As a much-tacking ship upon the sea,) 
For it the partial to the permanent flowing, 
For it the real to the ideal tends. 

For it the mystic evolution, 

Not the right only justified, what we call evil also justified. 

Forth from their masks, no matter what. 

From the huge festering trunk, from craft and guile and tears. 

Health to emerge and joy, joy universal. 

Out of the bulk, the morbid and the shallow. 

Out of the bad majority, the varied countless frauds of men and 

Electric, antiseptic yet, cleaving, suffusing all, 
Only the good is universal. 

1 82 Leaves of Grass. 

Over the mountain-growths disease and sorrow, 
An uncaught bird is ever hovering, hovering, 
High in the purer, happier air. 

From imperfection's murkiest cloud. 
Darts always forth one ray of perfect light, 
One flash of heaven's glory. 

To fashion's, custom's discord, 
To the mad Babel-din, the deafening orgies, 
Soothing each lull a strain is heard, just heard, 
From some far shore the final chorus sounding. 

O the blest eyes, the happy hearts. 

That see, that know the guiding thread so fine, 

Along the mighty labyrinth. 

And thou America, 

For the scheme's culmination, its thought and its reality. 

For these (not for thyself) thou hast arrived. 

Thou too surroundest all. 

Embracing carrying welcoming all, thou too by pathways broad 

and new. 
To the ideal tendest. 

The measur'd faiths of other lands, the grandeurs of the past. 
Are not for thee, but grandeurs of thine own, 
Deific faiths and amplitudes, absorbing, comprehending all, 
All ehgible to all. 

All, all for immortality. 

Love like the light silently wrapping all, 

Nature's amelioration blessing all. 

The blossoms, fruits of ages, orchards divine and certain. 

Forms, objects, growths, humanities, to spiritual images ripening. 

Give me O God to sing that thought, 

Give me, give him or her I love this quenchless faith, 

In Thy ensemble, whatever else withheld withhold not from us, 

Behef in plan of Thee enclosed in Time and Space, 

Health, peace, salvation universal. ... 

Birds of Passage. 183 

Is it a dream ? 

Nay but the lack of it the dream, 

And failing it life's lore and wealth a dream, 

And all the world a dream. 


Come my tan-faced children, 
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready, 
Have you your pistols? have you your sharp-edged axes? 

Pioneers 1 O pioneers ! 

For we cannot tarry here, 
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger, 
We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

O you youths, Western youths, 
So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship, 
Plain I see you Western youths, see you tramping with the fore- 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

Have the elder races halted ? 
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied over there beyond 

the seas? 
We take up the task eternal, and the burden and the lesson, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

All the past we leave behind. 
We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world. 
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march. 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

We detachments steady throwing, 
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep, 
Conquering, holding, daring, venturing as we go the unknown ways, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

We primeval forests felling. 
We the rivers stemming, vexing w^e and piercing deep the mines 

We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

1 84 Leaves of Grass. 

Colorado men are we, 
From the peaks gigantic, from the great sierras and the high 

From the mine and from the gully, from the hunting trail we come, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

From Nebraska, from Arkansas, 
Central inland race are we, from Missouri, with the continental 

blood intervein'd, 
All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southern, all the 
Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

O resistless restless race ! 
O beloved race in all ! O my breast aches with tender love for all 1 
O I mourn and yet exult, I am rapt with love for all, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

Raise the mighty mother mistress. 
Waving high the delicate mistress, over all the starry mistress, 

(bend your heads all,) 
Raise the fang'd and warlike mistress, stern, impassive, weapon'd 
Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

See my children, resolute children. 
By those swarms upon our rear we must never yield or falter. 
Ages back in ghostly millions frowning there behind us urging, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

On and on the compact ranks. 
With accessions ever waiting, with the places of the dead quickly 

Through the battle, through defeat, moving yet and never stopping, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

O to die advancing on ! 
Are there some of us to droop and die? has the hour come? 
Then upon the march we fittest die, soon and sure the gap is fiird, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

All the pulses of the world. 
Falling in they beat for us, with the Western movement beat, 
Holding single or together, steady moving to the front, all for us, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

Birds of Passage, 185 

Life's involv'd and varied pageants, 
All the forms and shows, all the workmen at their work, 
All the seamen ^id the landsmen, all the masters with their slaves^ 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

All the hapless silent lovers, 
All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and the wicked, 
All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the dying, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

I too with my soul and body. 
We, a curious trio, picking, wandering on our way, 
Through these shores amid the shadows, with the apparitions 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

Lo, the darting bowling orb ! 
Lo, the orother orbs around, all the clustering sons and planets, 
All the dazzling days, all the mystic nights with dreams. 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

These are of us, they are with us. 
All for primal needed work, while the followers there in embryo 

wait behind. 
We to-day's procession heading, we the route for travel clearing, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

O you daughters of the West ! 
O you young and elder daughters ! O you mothers and you wives ! 
Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united. 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

Minstrels latent on the prairies ! 
(Shrouded bards of other lands, you may rest, you have done 

your work,) 
Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and tramp amid us, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

Not for delectations sweet, 
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious. 
Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

Do the feasters gluttonous feast? 
Do the corpulent sleepers sleep ? have they locked and bolted doors ? 
Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the ground, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

Leaves of Grass. 

Has the night descended ? 
Was the road of late so toilsome ? did we stop discouraged nodding 

on our way? 
Yet a passing hour I yield you in your tracks to pause oblivious, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 

Till with sound of trumpet, « 

Far, far off the daybreak call — hark ! how loud and clear I hear 

it wind, 
Swift ! to tne head of the army ! — swift ! spring to your places, 

Pioneers ! O pioneers ! 


Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams, 
I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your feet 

and hands. 
Even now your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners, 

troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you. 
Your true soul and body appear before me. 
They stand forth out of affairs, out of commerce, shops, work, 

farms, clothes, the house, buying, selling, eating, drinking, 

suffering, dying. 

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my 

I whisper with my lips close to your ear, 
I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than 


I have been dilatory and dumb, 

1 should have made my way straight to you long ago, 

I should have blabb'd nothing but you, I should have chanted 
nothing but you. 

I will leave all and come and make the hymns of you. 

None has understood you, but I understand you. 

None has done justice to you, you have not done justice to your- 

None but has found you imperfect, I only find no imperfection in 

None but would subordinate you, I only am he who will never 
consent to subordinate you, 

I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better, God, 
beyond what waits intrinsically in yourself. 

Birds of Passage 187 

Painters have painted their swarming groups and the centre-figure 
of all, 

From the head of the centre-figure spreading a nimbus of gold- 
color'd light, 

But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its nim- 
bus of gold-color'd light, 

From my hand from the brain of every man and woman it streams, 
effulgently flowing forever. 

I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you ! 

You have not known what you are, you have slumber'd upon 

yourself all your life, 
Your eyelids have been the same as closed most of the time, 
What you have done returns already in mockeries, 
(Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return m mock- 
eries, what is then* return?) 

The mockeries are not you, 

Underneath them and withm them I see you lurk, • 

1 pursue you where none else has pursued you, 

Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the accustom'd 
routine, if these conceal you from others or from yourself, 
they do not conceal you from me, 

The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complexion, if these 
balk others they do not balk me, 

The pert apparel, the deform'd attitude, drunkenness, greed, pre- 
mature death, all these I part aside. 

There is no endowment in man or woman that is not tallied in 

There is no virtue, no beauty in man or woman, but as good is m 

No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in you, 
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure waits for you. 

As for me, I give nothing to any one except I give the like care- 
fully to you, 

I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner than 1 
sing the songs of the gfory of you. 

Whoever you are ! claim your own at any hazard 1 
These shows of the East and West are tame compared to you, 
These immense meadows, these interminable rivers, you are 
immense and interminable as they, 

Leaves of Grass. 

These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of appar- 
ent dissolution, you are he or she who is master or mistress 
over them, 

Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, pain, 
passion, dissolution. 

The hopples fall from your ankles, you find an unfailing sufficiency, 
Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the rest, 

whatever you are promulges itself, 
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided, nothing 

is scanted, 
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, w^hat you are 

picks its way. 


The \%th Year of these States, 

A GREAT year and place, 

A harsh discordant natal scream out-sounding, to touch the 
mother's heart closer than aiiy yet. 

I walked the shores of my Eastern sea, 

Heard over the waves the little voice. 

Saw the divine infant where she woke mournfully wailing, amid the 

roar of cannon, curses, shouts, crash of falling buildings. 
Was not so sick from the blood in the gutters running, nor from 

the single corpses, nor those in heaps, nor those borne 

away in the tumbrils, 
Was not so desperate at the battues of death — was not so shock'd 

at the repeated fusillades of the guns. 

Pale, silent, stern, what could I say to that long-accrued retribu- 
tion ? 
Could I wish humanity different? 
Could I wish the people made of wood and stone ? 
Or that there be no justice in destiny or time? 

O Liberty ! O mate for me ! 

Here too the blaze, the grape-shot and the axe, in reserve, to 

fetch them out in case of need. 
Here too, though long represt, can never be destroy'd, 
Here too could rise at last murdering and ecstatic. 
Here too demanding full arrears of vengeance. 

Hence I sign this salute over the sea. 

And I do not deny that terrible red birth and baptism, 

Birds OF Passage. 189 

But remember the little voice that I heard wailing, and wait with 

perfect trust, no matter how long, 
And from to-day sad and cogent I maintain the bequeath'd cause, 

as for all lands, 
And I send these words to Paris with my love. 
And I guess some chansonniers there will understand them, 
For I guess there is latent music yet in France, floods of it, 
O I hear aheady the bustle of instruments, they will soon be 

drowning all that would interrupt them, 

I think the east wind brings a triumphal and free march, 
It reaches hither, it swells me to joyful madness, 

1 will run transpose it in words, to justify it, 
I will yet sing a song for you ma femme. 


Myself and mine gymnastic ever. 

To stand the cold or heat, to take good aim with a gun, to sail a 

boat, to manage horses, to beget superb children. 
To speak readily and clearly, to feel at home among common 

And to hold our own in terrible positions on land and sea. 

Not for an embroiderer, 

(There will always be plenty of embroiderers, I welcome them also,) 

But for the fibre of things and for inherent men and women. 

Not to chisel ornaments. 

But to chisel with free stroke the heads and limbs of plenteous 

supreme Gods, that the States may realize them walking 

and talking. 

Let me have my own way. 

Let others promulge the laws, I will make no account of the laws, 

Let others praise eminent men and hold up peace, I hold up 

agitation and conflict, 
I praise no eminent man, I rebuke to his face the one that was 

thought most worthy. 

(Who are you? and what are you secretly guilty of all your hfe? 
Will you turn aside all your life? will you grub and chatter all 

your life ? 
And who are you, blabbing by rote, years, pages, languages, 


190 Leaves of Grass. 

Unwitting to-day that you do not know how to speak properly a 
single word?) 

Let others finish specimens, I never finish specimens, 
I start them by exhaustless laws as Nature does, firesh and modern 

I give nothing as duties. 

What others give as duties I give as living impulses, 

(Shall I give the heart's action as a duty?) 

Let others dispose of questions, I dispose of nothing, I arouse 

unanswerable questions, 
Who are they I see and touch, and what about them? 
What about these likes of myself that draw me so close by tender 

directions and indirections ? 

I call to the world to distrust the accounts of my friends, but 

listen to my enemies, as I myself do, 
I charge you forever reject those who would expound me, for I 

cannot expound myself, 
I charge that there be no theory or school founded out of me, 
I charge you to leave all free, as I have left all free. 

After me, vista ! 

I see life is not short, but immeasurably long, 

1 henceforth tread the world chaste, temperate, an early riser, a 

steady grower. 
Every hour the semen of centuries, and still of centuries. 

I must follow up these continual lessons of the air, water, earth, 
I perceive I have no time to lose. 



Year of meteors ! brooding year ! 

I would bind in words retrospective some of your deeds and signs, 

I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad, 

I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the 

scaffold in Virginia, 
(I was at hand, silent I stood with teeth shut close, I watch'd, 
I stood very near you old man when cool and indifferent, but 

trembling with age and your unheal'd wounds you mounted 

the scaffold;) 

Birds of Passage. 191 

I would sing in my copious song your census returns of the States, 
The tables of population and products, I would sing of your ships 

and their cargoes, 
The proud black ships of Manhattan arriving, some fill'd with 

immigrants, some from the isthmus with cargoes of gold, 
Songs thereof would I sing, to all that hitherward comes would I 

welcome give, 
And you would I sing, fair stripling ! welcome to you from me, 

young prince of England ! 
(Remember you surging Manhattan's crowds as you pass'd with 

your cortege of nobles ? 
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment ;) 
Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my 

Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she 

was 600 feet long. 
Her moving swiftly surrounded by myriads of small craft I forget 

not to sing ; 
Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north flaring in 

Nor the strange huge meteor-procession dazzling and clear shoot- 
ing over our heads, 
(A moment, a moment long it sail'd its balls of unearthly light 

over our heads. 
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone ;) 
Of such, and fitful as they, I sing — with gleams from them would 

I gleam and patch these chants. 
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good — year of 

forebodings 1 
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange — lo ! even here 

one equally transient and strange ! 
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this 

What am I myself but one of your meteors ? 


With antecedents. 

With my fathers and mothers and the accumulations of past 

With all which, had it not been, I would not now be here, as I 

With Egypt, India, Phenicia, Greece and Rome, 
With the Kelt, the Scandinavian, the Alb and the Saxon, 

192 Leaves of Grass. 

With antique maritime ventures, laws, artisanship, wars and jour- 

With the poet, the skald, the saga, the myth, and the oracle, 
With the sale of slaves, with enthusiasts, with the troubadour, the 

crusader, and the monk. 
With those old continents whence we have come to this new 

With the fading kingdoms and kings over there, 
With the fading religions and priests, 
With the small shores we look back to from our own large and 

present shores. 
With countless years drawing themselves onward and arrived at 

these years. 
You and me arrived — America arrived and making this year, 
This year ! sending itself ahead countless years to come. 

but it is not the years — it is I, it is You, 
We touch all laws and tally all antecedents. 

We are the skald, the oracle, the monk and the knight, we easily 

include them and more, 
We stand amid time beginningless and endless, we stand amid evil 

and good. 
All swings around us, there is as much darkness as light. 
The very sun swings itself and its system of planets around us, 
Its sun, and its again, all swing around us. 

As for me, (torn, stormy, amid these vehement days,) 

1 have the idea of all, and am all and believe in all, 

I beheve materialism is true and spiritualism is true, I reject no 

(Have I forgotten any part? -any thing in the past? 
Come to me whoever and whatever, till I give you recogni- 

I respect Assyria, China, Teutonia, and the Hebrews, 

I adopt each theory, myth, god, and demi-god, 

I see that the old accounts, bibles, genealogies, are true, without 

I assert that all past days were what they must have been. 
And that they could no-how have been better than they were, 
And that to-day is what it must be, and that America is, 
And that to-day and America could no-how be better than they 


A Broadway Pageant. 193 


In the name . of these States and in your and my name, the 

And in the name of these States and in your and my name, the 

Present time. 

I know that the past was great and the future will be great, 
And I know that both curiously conjoint in the present time, 
(For the sake of him I typify, for the common average man's 

sake, your sake if you are he,) 
And that where I am or you are this present day, there is the 

centre of all days, all races. 
And there is the meaning to us of all that has ever come of races 

and days, or ever will come. 


Over the Western sea hither from Niphon come. 
Courteous, the swart-cheek'd two-sworded envoys. 
Leaning back in their open barouches, bare-headed, impassive, 
Ride to-day through Manhattan. 

Libertad ! I do not know whether others behold what I behold. 

In the procession along with the nobles of Niphon, the errand- 

Bringing up the rear, hovering above, around, or in the ranks 

But I will sing you a song of what I behold Libertad. 

When million-footed Manhattan unpent descends to her pavements, 

When the thunder-cracking guns arouse me with the proud roar 
I love. 

When the round-mouth'd guns out of the smoke and smell I love 
spit their salutes. 

When the fire-flashing guns have fully alerted me, and heaven- 
clouds canopy my city with a deHcate thin haze, 

When gorgeous the countless straight stems, the forests at the 
wharves, thicken with colors, 

When every ship richly drest carries her flag at the peak, 

When pennants trail and street-festoons hang from the windows, 

194 Leaves of Grass. 

When Broadway is entirely given up to foot-passengers and foot- 
standers, when the mass is densest, 

When the facades of the houses are ahve with people, when eyes 
gaze riveted tens of thousands at a time, 

Wlien the guests from the islands advance, when the pageant 
moves forward visible, 

When the summons is made, when the answer that waited thou- 
sands of years answers, 

I too arising, answering, descend to the pavements, merge with 
the crowd, and gaze with them. 

Superb-faced Manhattan ! 

Comrade Americanos ! to us, then at last the Orient comes. 

To us, my city. 

Where our tall-topt marble and iron beauties range on opposite 

sides, to walk in the space between. 
To-day our Antipodes comes. 

The Originatress comes. 

The nest of languages, the bequeather of poems, the race of eld. 

Florid with blood, pensive, rapt with musings, hot with passion. 

Sultry with perfume, with ample and flowing garments. 

With sunburnt visage, with intense soul and glittering eyes. 

The race of Brahma comes. 

See my cantabile ! these and more are flashing to us from the 

As it moves changing, a kaleidoscope divine it moves changing 

before us. 

For not the envoys nor the tann'd Japanee from his island only. 
Lithe and silent the Hindoo appears, the Asiatic continent itself 

appears, the past, the dead, 
The murky night-morning of wonder and fable inscrutable, 
The envelop'd mysteries, the old and unknown hive -bees, 
The north, the sweltering south, eastern Assyria, the Hebrews, the 

ancient of ancients. 
Vast desolated cities, the gliding present, all of these and more are 

in the pageant-procession. 

Geography, the world, is in it. 

The Great Sea, the brood of islands, Polynesia, the coast beyond, 
The coast you henceforth are facing — you Libertad ! from your 
Western golden shores. 

A Broadway Pageant. 195 

The countries there with their populations, the milHons en-masse 

are curiously here, 
The swarming market-places, the temples with idols ranged along 

the sides or at the end, bonze, brahmin, and llama, 
Mandarin, farmer, merchant, mechanic, and fisherman, 
The singing-girl and the dancing-girl, the ecstatic persons, the 

secluded emperors, 
Confucius himself, the great poets and heroes, the warriors, the 

castes, all. 
Trooping up, crowding from all directions, from the Altay moun- 
From Thibet, from the four winding and far-flowing rivers of 

From the southern peninsulas and the demi-continental islands, 

from Malaysia, 
These and whatever belongs to them palpable show forth to me, 

and are seiz'd by me. 
And I am seiz'd by them, and friendlily held by them, 
Till as here them all I chant, Libertad ! for themselves and for 


For I too raising my voice join the ranks of thi^ pageant, 

I am the chanter, I chant aloud over the pageant, 

I chant the world on my Western sea, 

I chant copious the islands beyond, thick as stars in the sky, 

I chant the new empire grander than any before, as in a vision it 

comes to me, 
I chant America the mistress, I chant a greater supremacy, 
I chant projected a thousand blooming cities yet in time on those 

groups of sea-islands, 
My sail-ships and steam-ships threading the archipelagoes, 
My stars and stripes fluttering in the wind, 
Commerce opening, the sleep of ages having done its work, races 

reborn, refresh'd. 
Lives, works resumed — the object I know not — but the old, the 

Asiatic renew'd as it must be, 
Commencing from this day surrounded by the world. 

And you Libertad of the world ! 
You shall sit in the middle well-pois'd thousands and thousands of 

As to-day from one side the nobles of Asia come to you, 
As to-morrow from the other side the queen of England sends h-jr 

eldest son to you. 

196 Leaves of Grass. 

The sign is reversing, the orb is enclosed, 
The ring is circled, the journey is done, 

The box-lid is but perceptibly open'd, nevertheless the perfume 
pours copiously out of the whole box. 

Young Libertad ! with the venerable Asia, the all-mother. 
Be considerate with her now and ever hot Libertad, for you are all. 
Bend your proud neck to the long-off mother now sending mes- 
sages over the archipelagoes to you, 
Bend your proud neck low for once, young Libertad. 

Were the children straying westward so long? so wide the tramping? 
Were the precedent dim ages debouching westward from Paradise 

so long? 
Were the centuries steadily footing it that way, all the while 

unknown, for you, for reasons ? 

They are justified, they are accomplished, they shall now be turn'd 
the other way also, to travel toward you thence, 

They shall now also march obediently eastward for your sake 



Out of the cradle endlessly rocking, 

Out of the mocking-bird's throat, the musical shuttle. 

Out of the Ninth-month midnight, 

Over the sterile sands and the fields beyond, where the child 
leaving his bed wander'd alone, bareheaded, barefoot, 

Down from the shower'd halo. 

Up from the mystic play of shadows twining and twisting as if 
they were alive. 

Out from the patches of briers and blackberries. 

From the memories of the bird that chanted to me. 

From your memories sad brother, from the fitful risings and fall- 
ings I heard. 

From under that yellow half-moon late-risen and swollen as if with 

Sea-Drift. 197 

From those beginning notes of yearning and love there in the mist, 

From the thousand responses of my heart never to cease, 

From the myriad thence-arous'd words, 

From the word stronger and more deHcious than any, 

From such as now they start the scene revisiting. 

As a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing, 

Borne hither, ere all eludes me, hurriedly, 

A man, yet by these tears a little boy again, 

Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves, 

I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter. 

Taking all hints to use them, but swiftly leaping beyond them, 

A reminiscence sing. 

Once Paumanok, 

When the lilac -scent was in the air and Fifth-month grass was 

Up this seashore in some briers. 
Two feather'd guests from Alabama, two together, 
And their nest, and four light-green eggs spotted with brown, 
And every day the he-bird to and fro near at hand. 
And every day the she-bird crouch'd on her nest, silent, with 

bright eyes. 
And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing 

Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating. 

Shine ! shine ! shine I 

Pour down your warmth, great sun ! 

While we dask, we two together. 

Two together / 

Winds blow souths or winds blow norths 
Day C07ne white, or night come black, 
Ho7ne, or rivers and mountains from homey 
Singing all time, minding no time, 
While we two keep together. 

Till of a sudden. 

May-be kill'd, unknown to her mate. 

One forenoon the she-bird crouch'd not on the nest. 

Nor return'd that afternoon, nor the next 

Nor ever appear'd again. 

And thenceforward all summer in the sound of the sea, 
And at night under the full of the moon in calmer weather, 

198 Leaves of Grass. 

Over the hoarse surging of the sea, 

Or flitting from brier to brier by day, 

I saw, I heard at intervals the remaining one, the he-bird, 

The soHtary guest from Alabama. 

Blow ! blow I blo7v / 

Bloiv up sea-wmds along Paumanok' s shore ; 

I wait and I wait till you blow my mate to me. 

Yes, when the stars glisten'd, 

All night long on the prong of a moss-scallop'd stake, 

Down almost amid the slapping waves, 

Sat the lone singer wonderful causing tears. 

He caird on his mate. 

He pour'd forth the meanings which I of all men know. 

Yes my brother I know. 

The rest might not, but I have treasured every note. 

For more than once dimly down to the beach gliding. 

Silent, avoiding the moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows, 

Recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds and 

sights after their sorts. 
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing, 
I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair, 
Listen'd long and long. 

Listen'd to keep, to sing, now translating the notes. 
Following you my brother. 

Soothe I soothe I soothe I 

Close on its wave soothes the wave behind^ 

And again another behind embracing and lappings every one close^ 

But my love soothes not me, not me. 

Low hangs the moon, it rose late. 

It is lagging — O I think it is heavy with love, with love, 

O madly the sea pushes upon the land, 
With love, with love, 

O night I do I not see my love fluttering out among the breakers i? 
What is that little black thing I see there in the white ? 

Loud I loud I loud I 

Loud I call to yoic, my love ! 

Sea-Drift. 199 

High and clear I shoot my voice over the waves ^ 
Surely you nmst know who is Jiere^ is here^ 
You must know who I am, my love. 

Low-hanging moofi / 

What is that dusky spot in your brown yellow ? 

O it is the shape ^ the shape of my mate ! 

O moo7i do not keep her from me any longer. 

Land I la7id ! O land / 

Whichever 7vay I turn, O I think you could give me my mate 

back again if yoic only would. 
For I ain almost sure 1 see her dimly whichever way I look. 

O rising stars ! 

Perhaps the one I want so much will rise, will rise 2vith some 
of you. 

O throat/ O trembling throat f 

Sound clearer through the atmosphei'e ! 

Pierce the woods, the earth, 

Somewhei^e listening to catch you must be the one L want. 

Shake out carols I 

Solitary here, the nighfs carols ! 

Carols of lonesome love ! death's carols I 

Carols tender that lagging, yellow, waning moon ! 

O under that moon where she droops almost down into the sea / 

O reckless despairing carols. 

But soft I sink low ! 
Soft! let me fust murrnur. 

And do you wait a 7noment you husky-nois\l sea. 
For somezuhere I believe I heard my mate responding to me. 
So faint, I must be still, be still to listen. 

But not altogether still, for then she might not come immediately 
to me. 

Hither my love I 
He7'e I am ! here I 

With this Just-sustai/i^d 7iote I a7i7tounce 77iyself to you, 
This ge7itle call is for you 77iy love, for you. 

Do not be decoy' d else7vhe7'e. 

That is the whistle of the wind, it is ?iot 7ny voicCy 

200 Leaves of Grass. 

That is the fluttering, the fluttering of the spray ^ 
Those are the shadows of leaves, 

O darkness / O in vain I 

O I am very sick and sor7'owfuL 

O brown halo in the sky near the moon, drooping upon the sea / 

O troubled reflection in the sea ! 

O throat I O throbbing heart ! 

And I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night, 

O past/ O happy life I O songs of Joy / 
In the air, in the woods, over fields, 
Loved / loved/ loved / loved/ loved/ 
But my mate no more, no more with me / 
We two together no more. 

The aria sinking, 

All else continuing, the stars shining. 

The winds blowing, the notes of the bird continuous echoing, 

With angry moans the fierce old mother incessantly moaning, 

On the sands of Paumanok's shore gray and rustling, 

The yellow half-moon enlarged, sagging down, drooping, the face 

of the sea almost touching, 
The boy ecstatic, with his bare feet the waves, with his hair the 

atmosphere dallying. 
The love in the heart long pent, now loose, now at last tumultu- 

ously bursting. 
The aria's meaning, the ears, the soul, swiftly depositing, 
The strange tears down the cheeks coursing. 
The colloquy there. Jli e trio^ e ach uttering. 
The undertone, the savage old mother incessantly crying, 
To the boy's soul's questions sullenly timing, some drown'd secret 

To the outsetting bard. 

Demon or bird ! (said the boy's soul,) 

Is it indeed toward your mate you sing ? or is it really to me ? 

For I, that was a child, my tongue's use sleeping, now I have 

heard you. 
Now in a moment I know what I am for, I awake. 
And already a thousand singers, a thousand songs, clearer, louder 

and more sorrowful than yours, 
A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me, never 

to die. 

Sea-Drift. 201 

O you singer solitary, singing by yourself, projecting me, 

O solitary me listening, never more shall I cease perpetuating 

Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations, 
Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me. 
Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what 

there in the night, 
By the sea under the yellow and sagging moon. 
The messenger there arous'd, the fire, the sweet hell within, 
The unknown want, the destiny of me. 

O give me the clew ! (it lurks in the night here somewhere,) 
O if I am to have so much, let me have more ! 

A word then, (for I will conquer it,) 
The word final, superior to all, 
Subtle, sent up — what is it ? — I listen ; 

Are you whispering it, and have been all the time, you sea- 
waves ? 
Is that it from your Hquid rims and wet sands ? 

Whereto answering, the sea. 

Delaying not, hurrying not, 

Whisper'd me through the night, and very plainly before day- 

Lisp'd to me the low and delicious word death. 

And again death, death, death, death. 

Hissing melodious, neither like the bird nor hke my arous'd child's 

But edging near as privately for me rustling at my feet, 

Creeping thence steadily up to my ears and laving me sottly all 

Death, death, death, death, death. 

Which I do not forget. 

But fuse the song of my dusky demon and brother. 

That he sang to me in the moonlight on Paumanok's gray beach, 

With the thousand responsive songs at random, 

My own songs awaked from that hour. 

And with them the key, the word up from the waves. 

The word of the sweetest song and all songs. 

That strong and delicious word which, creeping to my feet, 

(Or like some old crone rocking the cradle, swathed in sweet 

garments, bending aside,) 
The sea whisper'd me. 

202 Leaves of Grass. 


As I ebb'd with the ocean of life, 
As I wended the shores I know, 

As I walk'd where the ripples continually wash you Paumanok, 
Where they rustle up hoarse and sibilant, 
Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her castaways, 
I musing late in the autumn day, gazing off southward. 
Held by this electric self out of the pride of which I utter poems. 
Was seiz'd by the spirit that trails in the lines underfoot. 
The rim, the sediment that stands for all the water and all the 
land of the globe. 

Fascinated, my eyes reverting from the south, dropt, to follow 

those slender windrows, 
Chaff, straw, splinters of wood, weeds, and the sea-gluten, 
Scum, scales from shining rocks, leaves of salt-lettuce, left by the 

Miles walking, the sound of breaking waves the other side of me, 
Paumanok there and then as I thought the old thought of likenesses, 
These you presented to me you fish-shaped island, 
As I wended the shores I know, 
As I walk'd with that electric self seeking types. 

As I wend to the shores I know not, 

As I list to the dirge, the voices of men and women wrecked, 

As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in upon me, 

As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and closer, 

I too but signify at the utmost a little wash'd-up drift, 

A few sands and dead leaves to gather, 

Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and drift. 

O baffled, balk'd, bent to the very earth, 

Oppress'd with myself that I have dared to open my mouth. 

Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil upon me I 

have not once had the least idea who or what I am. 
But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands yet 

untouched, untold, altogether unreach'd. 
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and 

With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written, 
Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath. 

Sea-Drift. 203 

I perceive I have not really understood any thing, not a single 

object, and that no man ever can. 
Nature here in sight of the sea taking advantage of me to dart 

upon me and sting me, 
Because I have dared to open my mouth to sing at all. 

You oceans both, I close with you, 

We murmur alike reproachfully rolling sands and drift, knowing 

not why, 
These little shreds indeed standing for you and me and all. 

You friable shore with trails of debris. 

You fish-shaped island, I take what is underfoot, 

What is yours is mine my father. 

I too Paumanok, 

I too have bubbled up, floated the measureless float, and been 

wash'd on your shores, 
I too am but a trail of drift and debris, 
I too leave little wrecks upon you, you fish-shaped island. 

I throw myself upon your breast my father, 
I cling to you so that you cannot unloose me, 
I hold you so firm till you answer me something. 

Kiss me my father. 

Touch me with your lips as I touch those I love, 
Breathe to me while I hold you close the secret of the murmuring 
I envy. 


Ebb, ocean of life, (the flow will return,) 
Cease not your moaning you fierce old mother. 
Endlessly cry for your castaways, but fear not, deny not me, 
Rustle not up so hoarse and angry against my feet as I touch you 
or gather from you. 

I mean tenderly by you and all, 

I. gather for myself and for this phantom looking down where we 
lead, and following me and mine. 

Me and mine, loose windrows, little corpses. 

Froth, snowy white, and bubbles, 

(See, from my dead lips the ooze exuding at last, 

204 Leaves of Grass. 

See, the prismatic colors glistening and rolling,) 

Tufts of straw, sands, fragments, 

Buoy'd hither from many moods, one contradicting another, 

From the storm, the long calm, the darkness, the swell. 

Musing, pondering, a breath, a briny tear, a dab of liquid or soil, 

Up just as much out of fathomless workings fermented and thrown, 

A limp blossom or two, torn, just as much over waves floating, 

drifted at random, 
Just as much for us that sobbing dirge of Nature, 
Just as much whence we come that blare of the cloud-trumpets, 
We, capricious, brought hither we know not whence, spread out 

before you, 
You up there walking or sitting. 
Whoever you are, we too he in drifts at your feet. 


Teajrs ! tears ! tears ! 

In the night, in solitude, tears. 

On the white shore dripping, dripping, suck'd in by the sand, 

Tears, not a star shining, all dark and desolate. 

Moist tears from the eyes of a muffled head ; 

O who is that ghost? that form in the dark, with tears? 

What shapeless lump is that, bent, crouch'd there on the sand? 

Streaming tears, sobbing tears, throes, choked with wild cries ; 

O storm, embodied, rising, careering with swift steps along the 
beach ! 

O wild and dismal night storm, with wind — O belching and des- 
perate ! 

O shade so sedate and decorous by day, with calm countenance 
and regulated pace. 

But away at night as you fly, none looking — O then the unloosened 

Of tears ! tears ! tears ! 


Thou who hast slept all night upon the storm. 

Waking renewed on thy prodigious pinions, 

(Burst the wild storm ? above it thou ascended'st. 

And rested on the sky, thy slave that cradled thee,) 

Now a blue point, far, far in heaven floating. 

As to the light emerging here on deck I watch thee, 

(Myself a speck, a point on the world's floating vast.) 

Sea-Drift. 205 

Far, far at sea, 

After the night's fierce drifts have strewn the shore with wrecks, 

With re-appearing day as now so happy and serene, 

The rosy and elastic dawn, the flashing sun, 

The hmpid spread of air cerulean. 

Thou also re-appearest. 

Thou born to match the gale, (thou art all wings,) 

To cope with heaven and earth and sea and hurricane, 

Thou ship of air that never furl'st thy sails, 

Days, even weeks untired and onward, through spaces, realms 

At dusk that look'st on Senegal, at morn America, 
That sport'st amid the lightning-flash and thunder-cloud, 
In them, in thy experiences, had'st thou my soul, 
What joys ! what joys were thine ! 


Aboard at a ship's helm, 

A young steersman steering with care. 

Through fog on a sea-coast dolefully ringing. 

An ocean-bell — O a warning bell, rock'd by the waves. 

O you give good notice indeed, you bell by the sea-reefs ringing, 
Ringing, ringing, to warn the ship from its wreck-place. 

For as on the alert O steersman, you mind the loud admonition, 
The bows turn, the freighted ship tacking speeds away under her 

gray sails. 
The beautiful and noble ship with all her precious wealth speeds 

away gayly and safe. 

But O the ship, the immortal ship ! O ship aboard the ship ! 
Ship of the body, ship of the soul, voyaging, voyaging, voyaging. 


On the beach at night. 
Stands a child with her father. 
Watching the east, the autumn sky. 

Up through the darkness, 

2o6 Leaves of Grass. 

While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading, 

Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky, 

Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east, 

Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter, 

And nigh at hand, only a very little above, 

Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades. 

From the beach the child holding the hand of her father, 
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all, 
Watching, silently weeps. 

Weep not, child, 

Weep not, my darling. 

With these kisses let me remove your tears. 

The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious. 

They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in 

Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the 

Pleiades shall emerge. 
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall 

shine out again. 
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they 

The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons 

shall again shine. 

Then dearest child mourncst thou only for Jupiter? ^ 
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars ? 

Something there is, 

(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper, 

I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,) 

Something there is more immortal even than the stars, 

(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,) 

Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter, 

Longer than sun or any revolving satellite, 

Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades. 


The world below the brine. 

Forests at the bottom of the sea, the branches and leaves. 
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds, the thick tangle, 
openings, and pink turf, 

Sea-Drift, 207 

Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white, and gold, the 

play of light through the water, 
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks, coral, gluten, grass, rushes, 

and the aliment of the swimmers. 
Sluggish existences grazing there suspended, or slowly crawling 

close to the bottom, 
The sperm-whale at the surface blowing air and spray, or disporting 

with his flukes. 
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy sea-leopard, 

and the sting-ray. 
Passions there, wars, pursuits, tribes, sight in those ocean-depths, 

breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do. 
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed 

by beings like us who walk this sphere. 
The change onward from ours to that of beings who walk other 



On the beach at night alone. 

As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song. 
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef 
of the universes and of the future. 

A vast similitude interlocks all. 

All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets, 

All distances of place however wide. 

All distances of time, all inanimate forms. 

All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in 

different worlds. 
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the 

All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages, 
All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any 

All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future. 
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spanned, 
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them. 


To-day a rude brief recitative. 
Of ships sailing the seas^ each with its special flag or ship-signal, 

2o8 Leaves of Grass. 

Of unnamed heroes in the ships — of waves spreading and spread- 

ing far as the eye can reach, 
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing, 
And out of these a chant for the sailors of all nations, 
Fitful, like a surge. 

Of sea-captains young or old, and the mates, and of all intrepid 

Of the few, very choice, taciturn, whom fate can never surprise 

nor death dismay, 
Pick'd sparingly without noise by thee old ocean, chosen by thee, 
Thou sea that pickest and cullest the race in time, and unitest 

Suckled by thee, old husky nurse, embodying thee. 
Indomitable, untamed as thee. 

(Ever the heroes on water or on land, by ones or twos appearing, 
Ever the stock preserv'd and never lost, though rare, enough for 
seed preserv'd.) 

Flaunt out O sea your separate flags of nations ! 

Flaunt out visible as ever the various ship-signals ! 

But do you reserve especially for yourself and for the soul of man 

one flag above all the rest, 
A spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man elate above 

Token of all brave captains and all intrepid sailors and mates. 
And all that went down doing their duty. 

Reminiscent of them, twined from all intrepid captains young or old, 
A pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o'er all brave sailors, 
All seas, all ships. 


Wild, wild the storm, and the sea high running. 
Steady the roar of the gale, with incessant undertone muttering, 
Shouts of demoniac laughter fitfully piercing and pealing. 
Waves, air, midnight, their savagest trinity lashing, 
Out in the shadows there milk-white combs careering, 
On beachy slush and sand spirts of snow fierce slanting, 
Where through the murk the easterly death-wind breasting. 
Through cutting swirl and spray watchful and firm advancing, 
(That in the distance ! is that a wreck? is the red signal flaring?) 

By the Roadside. 209 

Slush and sand of the beach tireless till daylight wending, 
Steadily, slowly, through hoarse roar never remitting. 
Along the midnight edge by those milk-white combs careering, 
A group of dim, weird forms, struggling, the night confronting, 
That savage trinity warily watching. 


After the sea-ship, after the whistling winds. 

After the white-gray sails taut to their spars and ropes. 

Below, a myriad myriad waves hastening, lifting up their necks, 

Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship. 

Waves of the ocean bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying. 

Waves, undulating waves, liquid, uneven, emulous waves. 

Toward that whirHng current, laughing and buoyant, with curves, 

Where the great vessel sailing and tacking displaced the surface, 

Larger and smaller waves in the spread of the ocean yearnfully 

The wake of the sea-ship after she passes, flashing and frolicsome 

under the sun, 
A motley procession with many a fleck of foam and many fragments, 
Following the stately and rapid ship, in the wake following. 




To get betimes in Boston town I rose this morning early, 

Here's a good place at the corner, I must stand and see the show. 

Clear the way there Jonathan ! 

Way for the President's marshal — way for the government cannon ! 
Way for the Federal foot and dragoons, (and the apparitions 
copiously tumbling.) 

I love to look on the Stars and Stripes, I hope the fifes will play 
Yankee Doodle. 

210 Leaves of Grass. 

How bright shine the cutlasses of the foremost troops ! 

Every man holds his revolver, marching stiff through Boston town. 

A fog follows, antiques of the same come Hmping, 
Some appear wooden-legged, and some appear bandaged and 

Why this is indeed a show — it has called the dead out of the 

earth ! 
The old graveyards of the hills have hurried to see 1 
Phantoms ! phantoms countless by flank and rear ! 
Cock'd hats of mothy mould — crutches made of mist ! 
Arms in slings — old men leaning on young men's shoulders. 

What troubles you Yankee phantoms? what is all this chattering 

of bare gums? 
Does the ague convulse your limbs ? do you mistake your crutches 

for firelocks and level them ? 

If you blind your eyes with tears you will not see the President's 

If you groan such groans you might balk the government cannon. 

For shame old maniacs — bring down those toss'd arms, and let 

your white hair be. 
Here gape your great grandsons, their wives gaze at them from 

the windows, 
See how well dress'd, see how orderly they conduct themselves. 

Worse and worse — can't you stand it? are you retreating? 
Is this hour with the living too dead for you ? 

Retreat then — pell-mell ! 

To your graves — back — back to the hills old limpers ! 

I do not think you belong here anyhow. 

But there is one thing that belongs here — shall I tell you what it 
iS; gentlemen of Boston? 

I will whisper it to the Mayor, he shall send a committee to 

They shall get a grant from the Parliament, go with a cart to the 
royal vault. 

Dig out King George's coffin, unwrap him quick from the grave- 
clothes, box up his bones for a journey, 

By the Roadside. 2il 

Find a swift Yankee clipper — here is freight for you, black-bellied 

Up with your anchor — shake out your sails — steer straight toward 

Boston bay. 

Now call for the President's marshal again, bring out the govern- 
ment cannon, 

Fetch home the roarers from Congress, make another procession, 
guard it with foot and dragoons. 

This centre-piece for them ; 

Look, all orderly citizens — look from the windows, women ! 

The committee open the box, set up the regal ribs, glue those that 

will not stay. 
Clap the skull on top of the ribs, and clap a crown on top of the 


You have got your revenge, old buster — the crown is come to its 
own, and more than its own. 

Stick your hands in your pockets, Jonathan — you are a made 

man from this day. 
You are mighty cute — and here is one of your bargains. 


The 72<f and y^^ Years of These States, 

Suddenly out of its stale and drowsy lair, the lair of slaves. 
Like lightning it le'pt forth half startled at itself. 
Its feet upon the ashes and the rags, its hands tight to the throats 
of kings. 

O hope and faith ! 

O aching close of exiled patriots' lives ! 

O many a sicken'd heart 1 

Turn back unto this day and make yourselves afresh. 

And you, paid to defile the People — you liars, mark ! 

Not for numberless agonies, murders, lusts. 

For court thieving in its manifold mean forms, worming from his 

simplicity the poor man's wages. 
For many a promise sworn by royal lips and broken and laugh'd 

at in the breaking, 

212 Leaves of Grass. 

Then in their power not for all these did the blows strike revenge, 

or the heads of the nobles fall ; 
The People scorn'd the ferocity of kings. 

But the sweetness of mercy brew'd bitter destruction, and the 

frighten'd monarchs come back, 
Each comes in state with his train, hangman, priest, tax-gatherer, 
Soldier, lawyer, lord, jailer, and sycophant. 

Yet behind all lowering steahng, lo, a shape, 

Vague as the night, draped interminably, head, front and form", in 

scarlet folds. 
Whose face and eyes none may see. 

Out of its robes only this, the red robes lifted by the arm, 
One finger crook'd pointed high over the top, like the head of a 

snake appears. 

Meanwhile corpses lie in new-made graves, bloody corpses of 

young men, 
The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily, the bullets of princes are 

flying, the creatures of power laugh aloud, 
And all these things bear fruits, and they are good. 

Those corpses of young men. 

Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets, those hearts pierc'd by 

the gray lead. 
Cold and motionless as they seem live elsewhere with unslaugh- 

ter'd vitality. 

They live in other young men O kings ! 

They live in brothers again ready to defy you, 

They were purified by death, they were taught and exalted. 

Not a grave of the murder'd for freedom but grows seed for free- 
dom, in its turn to bear seed. 

Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the rains and the 
snows nourish. 

Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose, 
But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering, counseling, 

Liberty, let others despair of you — I never despair of you. 

Is the house shut ? is the master away ? 
Nevertheless, be ready, be not weary of watching, 
He will soon return, his messengers come anon. 

By THE Roadside, 213 


Hold it up sternly — see this it sends back, (who is it? is it 

Outside fair costume, within ashes and filth, 
No more a flashing eye, no more a sonorous voice or springy 

Now some slave's eye, voice, hands, step, 

A drunkard's breath, unwholesome eater's face, venerealee's flesh, 
Lungs rotting away piecemeal, stomach sour and cankerous, 
Joints rheumatic, bowels clogged with abomination. 
Blood circulating dark and poisonous streams. 
Words babble, hearing and touch callous, 
No brain, no heart left, no magnetism of sex ; 
Such from one look in this looking-glass ere you go hence, 
Such a result so soon — and from such a beginning ! 


Lover divine and perfect Comrade, 
Waiting content, invisible yet, but certain, 
Be thou my God. 

Thou, thou, the Ideal Man, 
Fair, able, beautiful, content, and loving. 
Complete in body and dilate in spirit. 
Be thou my God. 

O Death, (for Life has served its turn,) 
Opener and usher to the heavenly mansion. 
Be thou my God. 

Aught, aught of mightiest, best I see, conceive, or know, 
(To break the stagnant tie — thee, thee to free, O soul,) 
Be thou my God. 

All great ideas, the races' aspirations, 
All heroisms, deeds of rapt enthusiasts, 
Be ye my Gods. 

Or Time and Space, 

Or shape of Earth divine and wondrous, 
Or some fair shape I viewing, worship. 
Or lustrous orb of sun or star by night, 
Be ye my Gods. 

214 Leaves of Grass. 


Forms, qualities, lives, humanity, language, thoughts, 

The ones known, and the ones unknown, the ones on the stars, 

The stars themselves, some shaped, others unshaped. 

Wonders as of those countries, the soil, trees, cities, inhabitants, 

whatever they may be. 
Splendid suns, the moons and rings, the countless combinations 

and effects. 
Such-like, and as good as such-like, visible here or anywhere, 

stand provided for in a handful of space, which I extend 

my arm and half enclose with my hand, 
That containing the start of each and all, the virtue, the germs 

of all. 


Of ownership — as if one fit to own things could not at pleasure 

enter upon all, and incorporate them into himself or herself; 
Of vista — suppose some sight in arriere through the formative 

chaos, presuming the growth, fulness, life, now attain'd on 

the journey, 
(But T see the road continued, and the journey ever continued ;) 
Of what was once lacking on earth, and in due time has become 

supplied — and of what will yet be supplied, 
Because all I see and know I believe to have its main purport in 

what will yet be supplied. 


When I heard the learn'd astronomer. 

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me. 

When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and 

measure them. 
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much 

applause in the lecture-room. 
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick, 
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself, 
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, 
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars. 


Only themselves understand themselves and the like of themselves, 
As souls only understand souls. 

Bv THE Roadside. 21 5 


O ME ! O life I of the questions of these recurring, 

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill'd with the 

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than 
I, and who more faithless ?) 

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the 
struggle ever renew'd, 

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I 
see around me, 

Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me inter- 

The question, O me 1 so sad, recurring — What good amid these, 
O me, O Hfe ? 


That you are here — that life exists and identity, 

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. 


All you are doing and saying is to America dangled mirages, 
You have not learn'd of Nature — of the poHtics of Nature you 

have not learn'd the great amplitude, rectitude, impartiality. 
You have not seen that only such as they are for these States, 
And that what is less than they must sooner or later lift off from 

these States. 


I SIT and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all 

oppression and shame, 
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men at anguish with 

themselves, remorseful after deeds done, 
I see in low hfe the mother misused by her children, dying, 

neglected, gaunt, desperate, 
I see the wife misused by her husband, I see the treacherous 

seducer of young women, 
I mark the rankhngs of jealousy and unrequited love attempted to 

be hid, I see these sights on the earth, 
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny, I see martyrs and 

I observe a famine at sea, I observe the sailors casting lots who 

shall be kill'd to preserve the lives of the rest, 

2i6 Leaves of Grass, 

I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons 
upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the Uke ; 

All these — all the meanness and agony without end I sitting look 
out upon, 

See, hear, and am silent. 


What you give me I cheerfully accept, 

A little sustenance, a hut and garden, a little money, as I rendez- 
vous with my poems, 

A traveler's lodging and breakfast as I journey through the States, 
— why should I be ashamed to own such gifts ? why to 
advertise for them ? 

For I myself am not one who bestows nothing upon man and woman, 

For I bestow upon any man or woman the entrance to all the gifts 
of the universe. 


Skirting the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest,) 

Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles, 

The rushing amorous contact high in space together, 

The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel, • 

Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling, 

In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling. 

Till o'er the river pois'd, the twain yet one, a moment's lull, 

A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing, 

Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse 

She hers, he his, pursuing. 


{After reading Hegel.) 

Roaming in thought over the Universe, I saw the little that is 
Good steadily hastening towards immortality, 

And the vast all that is call'd Evil I saw hastening to merge itself 
and become lost and dead. 


Through the ample open door of the peaceful country barn, 
A sunlit pasture field with cattle and horses feeding. 
And haze and vista, and the far horizon fading away. 

Bv THE Roadside. 21 y 


Silent and amazed even when a little boy, 

I remember I heard the preacher every Sunday put God in his 

As contending against some being or influence. 


On a flat road runs the well-train'd runner, 
He is lean and sinewy with muscular legs. 
He is thinly clothed, he leans forward as he runs, 
With lightly closed fists and arms partially rais'd. 


Women sit or move to and fro, some old, some young. 
The young are beautiful — but the old are more beautiful than the 


I SEE the sleeping babe nestling the breast of its mother. 
The sleeping mother and babe — hush'd, I study them long and 


Of obedience, faith, adhesiveness ; 

As I stand aloof and look there is to me something profoundly 

affecting in large masses of men following the lead of those 

who do not beheve in men. 


A MASK, a perpetual natural disguiser of herself, 
Concealing her face, concealing her form. 
Changes and transformations every hour, every moment, 
Falling upon her even when she sleeps. 


Of Justice — as if Justice could be any thing but the same ample 

law, expounded by natural judges and saviors. 
As if it might be this thing or that thing, according to decisions. 

2l8 Leaves of Grass. 


Gliding o'er all, through all, 
Through Nature, Time, and Space, 
As a ship on the waters advancing, 
The voyage of the soul — not life alone, 
Death, many deaths I'll sing. 


Hast never come to thee an hour, 

A sudden gleam divine, precipitating, bursting all these bubbles, 

fashions, wealth? 
These eager business aims — books, pohtics, art, amours, 
To utter nothingness ? 


Of Equality — as if it harm'd me, giving others the same chances 
and rights as myself — as if it were not indispensable to 
my own rights that others possess the same. 


I SEE in you the estuary that enlarges and spreads itself grandly as 
it pours in the great sea. 


Locations and times — what is it in me that meets them all, when- 
ever and wherever, and makes me at home ? 

Forms, colors, densities, odors — what is it in me that corresponds 
with them ? 


A THOUSAND perfect men and women appear. 

Around each gathers a cluster of friends, and gay children and 
youths, with offerings. 


To Identify the i6th^ lyih^ or \Wi Presidenliad. 

Why reclining, interrogating ? why myself and all drowsing ? 
What deepening twilight — scum floating atop of the waters. 

Drum-Taps, 219 

Who are they as bats and night-dogs askant in the capitol? 
What a filthy Presidentiad ! (O South, your torrid suns ! O North, 

your arctic freezings !) 
Are those really Congressmen ? are those the great Judges ? is that 

the President? 
Then I will sleep awhile yet, for I see that these States sleep, for 

reasons ; 
(With gathering murk, with muttering thunder and lambent shoots 

we all duly awake, 
South, North, East, West, inland and seaboard, we will surely 




First O songs for a prelude. 

Lightly strike on the stretch'd tympanum pride and joy in my city, 

How she led the rest to arms, how she gave the cue, 

How at once with lithe limbs unwaiting a moment she sprang, 

(O superb ! O Manhattan, my own, my peerless ! 

O strongest you in the hour of danger, in crisis ! O truer than steel !) 

How you sprang — how you threw off the costumes of peace with 

indifferent hand. 
How your soft opera-music changed, and the drum and fife were 

heard in their stead. 
How you led to the war, (that shall serve for our prelude, songs 

of soldiers,) 
How Manhattan drum-taps led. 

Forty years had I in my city seen soldiers parading. 

Forty years as a pageant, till unawares the lady of this teeming 

and turbulent city, 
Sleepless amid her ships, her houses, her incalculable wealth, 
With her million children around her, suddenly, 
At dead of night, at news from the south, 
Incens'd struck with clinch'd hand the pavement. 

A shock electric, the night sustain 'd it. 

Till with ominous hum our hive at daybreak pour'd out its myriads. 

220 Leaves of Grass. 

From the houses then and the workshops, and through all the 

Leapt they tumultuous, and lo ! Manhattan arming. 

To the drum-taps prompt, 
The young men falling in and arming, 

The mechanics arming, (the trowel, the jack-plane, the black- 
smith's hammer, tost aside with precipitation,) 
The lawyer leaving his office and arming, the judge leaving the 

The driver deserting his wagon in the street, jumping down, 

throwing the reins abruptly down on the horses' backs. 
The salesman leaving the store, the boss, book-keeper, porter, all 

leaving ; 
Squads gather everywhere by common consent and arm. 
The new recruits, even boys, the old men show them how to wear 

their accoutrements, they buckle the straps carefully, 
Outdoors arming, indoors arming, the flash of the musket-barrels, 
The white tents cluster in camps, the arm'd sentries around, the 

sunrise cannon and again at sunset, 
Arm'd regiments arrive every day, pass through the city, and 

embark from the wharves, 
(How good they look as they tramp down to the river, sweaty, 

with their guns on their shoulders ! 
How I love them ! how I could hug them, with their brown faces 

and their clothes and knapsacks cover'd with dust !) 
The blood of the city up — arm'd ! arm'd ! the cry everywhere. 
The flags flung out from the steeples of churches and from all the 

public buildings and stores. 
The tearful parting, the mother kisses her son, the son kisses his 

(Loth is the mother to part, yet not a word does she speak to 

detain him,) 
The tumultuous escort, the ranks of policemen preceding, clearing 

the way. 
The unpent enthusiasm, the wild cheers of the crowd for their 

The artillery, the silent cannons bright as gold, drawn along, 

rumble lightly over the stones, 
(Silent cannons, soon to cease your silence. 
Soon unlimber'd to begin the red business ;) 
All the mutter of preparation, all the determin'd arming. 
The hospital service, the lint, bandages and medicines, 
The women volunteering for nurses, the work begun for in earnest, 

no mere parade now ; 

Drum-Taps, 22 i 

War ! an arm'd race is advancing ! the welcome for battle, no 

turning away ; 
War ! be it weeks, months, or years, an arm'd race is advancing 

to welcome it. 

Mannahatta a-march — and it's O to sing it well ! 
It's O for a manly life in the camp. 

And the sturdy artillery, 

The guns bright as gold, the work for giants, to serve well the guns, 

UnHmber them ! (no more as the past forty years for salutes for 

courtesies merely, 
Put in something now besides powder and wadding.) 

And you lady of ships, you Mannahatta, 

Old matron of this proud, friendly, turbulent city, 

Often in peace and wealth you were pensive or covertly frown'd 

amid all your children. 
But now you smile with joy exulting old Mannahatta. 


Arm'd year — year of the struggle, 

No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you terrible year, 

Not you as some pale poetling seated at a desk Ksping cadenzas 

But as a strong man erect, clothed in blue clothes, advancing, 

carrying a rifle on your shoulder, 
With well-gristled body and sunburnt face and hands, with a knife 

in the belt at your side. 
As I heard you shouting loud, your sonorous voice ringing across 

the continent. 
Your masculine voice O year, as rising amid the great cities. 
Amid the men of Manhattan I saw you as one of the workmen, 

the. dwellers in Manhattan, 
Or with large steps crossing the prairies out of Illinois and 

Rapidly crossing the West with springy gait and descending the 

Or down from the great lakes or in Pennsylvania, or on deck 

along the Ohio river. 
Or southward along the Tennessee or Cumberland rivers, or at 

Chattanooga on the mountain top. 
Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs clothed in blue, 

bearing weapons, robust year, 

222 Leaves of Grass. 

Heard your determin'd voice launched forth again and again, 
Year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round-Hpp'd cannon, 
I repeat you, hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year. 


Beat ! beat ! drums ! — blow ! bugles ! blow ! 

Through the windows — through doors — burst like a ruthless 

Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation, 
Into the school where the scholar is studying ; 
Leave not the bridegroom quiet — no happiness must he have 

now with his bride. 
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering 

his grain. 
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums — so shrill you bugles 


Beat ! beat ! drums ! — blow ! bugles ! blow ! 

Over the traffic of cities — over the rumble of wheels in the 

streets ; 
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses ? no sleepers 

must sleep in those beds, 
No bargainers' bargains by day — no brokers or speculators — 

would they continue ? 
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing? 
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the 

Then rattle quicker, heavier drums — you bugles wilder blow. 

Beat ! beat ! drums ! — blow ! bugles ! blow ! 

Make no parley — stop for no expostulation. 

Mind not the timid — mind not the weeper or prayer, 

Mind not the old man beseeching the young man, 

Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's entreaties. 

Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting 

the hearses. 
So strong you thump O terrible drums — so loud you bugles blow. 


From Paumanok starting I fly Hke a bird, 

Around and around to soar to sing the idea of all. 

To the north betaking myself to sing there arctic songs, 

Drum-Taps. 223 

To Kanada till I absorb Kanada in myself, to Michigan then, 

To Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, to sing their songs, (they are 

inimitable ;) 
Then to Ohio and Indiana to sing theirs, to Missouri and Kansas 

and Arkansas to sing theirs. 
To Tennessee and Kentucky, to the Carolinas and Georgia to sing 

To Texas and so along up toward California, to roam accepted 

everywhere ; 
To sing first, (to the tap of the war-drum if need be,) 
The idea of all, of the Western world one and inseparable, 
And then the song of each member of these States. 



O A new song, a free song. 

Flapping, flapping, flapping, flapping, by sounds, by voices clearer, 

By the wind's voice and that of the drum. 

By the banner's voice and child's voice and sea's voice and father's 

Low on the ground and high in the air, 
On the ground where father and child stand. 
In the upward air where their eyes turn, 
Where the banner at daybreak is flapping. 

Words ! book-words ! what are you? 

Words no more, for hearken and see, 

My song is there in the open air, and I must sing, 

With the banner and pennant a-flapping. 

I'll weave the chord and twine in, 

Man's desire and babe's desire, I'll twine them in, I'll put in life, 
I'll put the bayonet's flashing point, I'll let bullets and slugs whizz, 
(As one carrying a symbol and menace far into the future. 
Crying with trumpet voice. Arouse and beware! Beware and 

arouse /) 
I'll pour the verse with streams of blood, full of volition, full of joy, 
Then loosen, launch forth, to go and compete, 
With the banner and pennant a-flapping. 


Come up here, bard, bard, 
Come up here, soul, soul. 

224 Leaves of Grass, 

Come up here, dear little child, 

To fly in the clouds and winds with me, and play with the measure- 
less light. 


Father what is that in the sky beckoning to me with long finger ? 
And what does it say to me all the while ? 


Nothing my babe you see in the sky. 

And nothing at all to you it says — but look you my babe, 

Look at these dazzling things in the houses, and see you the 

money-shops opening, 
And see you the vehicles preparing to crawl along the streets with 

goods ; 
These, ah these, how valued and toil'd for these ! 
How envied by all the earth. 


Fresh and rosy red the sun is mounting high. 

On floats the sea in distant blue careering through its channels, 

On floats the wind over the breast of the sea setting in toward 

The great steady wind from west or west-by-south. 
Floating so buoyant with milk-white foam on the waters. 

But I am not the sea nor the red sun, 

I am not the wind with girlish laughter. 

Not the immense wind which strengthens, not the wind which 

Not the spirit that ever lashes its own body to terror and death. 
But I am that which unseen comes and sings, sings, sings, 
Which babbles in brooks and scoots in showers on the land. 
Which the birds know in the woods mornings and evenings. 
And the shore-sands know and the hissing wave, and that banner 

and pennant. 
Aloft there flapping and flapping. 


O father it is alive — it is full of people — it has children, 

now it seems to me it is talking to its children, 

1 hear it — it talks to me — O it is wonderful ! 

O it stretches — it spreads and runs so fast — O my father, 
It is so broad it covers the whole sky. 

Drum-Taps. 225 


Cease, cease, my foolish babe, 

What you are saying is sorrowful to me, much it displeases me ; 

Behold with the rest again I say, behold not banners and pennants 

But the well-prepared pavements behold, and mark the solid-wall'd 


Banner and Pennant. 

Speak to the child O bard out of Manhattan, 

To our children all, or north or south of Manhattan, 

Point this day, leaving all the rest, to us over all — and yet we 

know not why. 
For what are we, mere strips of cloth profiting nothing. 
Only flapping in the wind ? 


I hear and see not strips of cloth alone, 

I hear the tramp of armies, I hear the challenging sentry, 

I hear the jubilant shouts of millions of men, I hear Liberty ! 

I hear the drums beat and the trumpets blowing, 

I myself move abroad swift-rising flying then, 

I use the wings of the land-bird and use the wings of the sea-bird, 

and look down as from a height, 
I do not deny the precious results of peace, I see populous cities 

with wealth incalculable, 
I see numberless farms, I see the farmers working in their fields 

or barns, 
I see mechanics working, I see buildings everywhere founded, 

going up, or finish'd, 
I see trains of cars swiftly speeding along railroad tracks drawn 

by the locomotives, 
I see the stores, depots, of Boston, Baltimore, Charleston, New 

I see far in the West the immense area of grain, I dwell awhile 

I pass to the lumber forests of the North, and again to the South- 
ern plantation, and again to California ; 
Sweeping the whole I see the countless profit, the busy gatherings, 

earn'd wages. 
See the Identity formed out of thirty-eight spacious and haughty 

States, (and many more to come,) 
See forts on the shores of harbors, see ships sailing in and out ; 
Then over all, (aye ! aye !) my little and lengthen'd pennant 

shaped like a sword, 

226 Leaves of Grass. 

Runs swiftly up indicating war and defiance — and now the hal- 
yards have rais'd it, 
Side of my banner broad and blue, side of my starry banner, 
Discarding peace over all the sea and land. 

Banner a?id Pennant. 

Yet louder, higher, stronger, bard ! yet farther, wider cleave ! 
No longer let our children deem us riches and peace alone. 
We may be terror and carnage, and are so now. 
Not now are we any one of these spacious and haughty States. 

(nor any five, nor ten,) 
Nor market nor depot we, nor money-bank in the city. 
But these and all, and the brown and spreading land, and the 

mines below, are ours, 
And the shores of the sea are ours, and the rivers great and small. 
And the fields they moisten, and the crops and the fruits are ours, 
Bays and channels and ships sailing in and out are ours — while 

we over all. 
Over the area spread below, the three or four millions of square 

miles, the capitals. 
The forty milhons of people, — O bard ! in life and death supreme. 
We, even we, henceforth flaunt out masterful, high up above. 
Not for the present alone, for a thousand years chanting through 

This song to the soul of one poor little child. 


O my father I like not the houses. 

They will never to me be any thing, nor do I like money, 

But to mount up there I would like, O father dear, that banner I 

That pennant I would be and must be. 


Child of mine you fill me with anguish. 

To be that pennant would be too fearful, 

Little you know what it is this day, and after this day, forever. 

It is to gain nothing, but risk and defy every thing, 

Forward to stand in front of wars — and O, such wars ! — what 

have you to do with them? 
With passions of demons, slaughter, premature death? 


Demons and death then I sing. 

Put in all, aye all will I, sword-shaped pennant for war, 

Drum-Taps. 227 

And a pleasure new and ecstatic, and the prattled yearning of 

Blent with the sounds of the peaceful land and the liquid wash 

of the sea, 
And the black ships fighting on the sea envelop'd in smoke, 
And the icy cool of the far, far north, with rustling cedars and 

And the whirr of drums and the sound of soldiers marching, and 

the hot sun shining south. 
And the beach-waves combing over the beach on my Eastern 

shore, and my Western shore the same. 
And all between those shores, and my ever running Mississippi 

with bends and chutes. 
And my Illinois fields, and my Kansas fields, and my fields of 

The Continent, devoting the whole identity without reserving an 

Pour in ! whelm that which asks, which sings, with all and the 

yield of all. 
Fusing and holding, claiming, devouring the whole, 
No more with tender lip, nor musical labial sound. 
But out of the night emerging for good, our voice persuasive no 

Croaking like crows here in the wind. 


My limbs, my veins dilate, my theme is clear at last. 

Banner so broad advancing out of the night, I sing you haughty 

and resolute, 
I burst through where I waited long, too long, deafen'd and 

My hearing and tongue are come to me, (a little child taught me,) 
I hear from above O pennant of war your ironical call and demand, 
Insensate ! insensate ! (yet I at any rate chant you,) O banner ! 
Not houses of peace indeed are you, nor any nor all their pros- 
perity, (if need be, you shall again have every one of those 

houses to destroy them. 
You thought not to destroy those valuable houses, standing fast, 

full of comfort, built with money, 
May they stand fast, then ? not an hour except you above them 

and all stand fast ;) 
O banner, not money so precious are you, not farm produce you, 

nor the material good nutriment. 
Nor excellent stores, nor landed on wharves from the ships. 

228 Leaves of Grass. 

Not the superb ships with sail-power or steam-power, fetching and 
. carrying cargoes, 

Nor machinery, vehicles, trade, nor revenues — but you as hence- 
forth I see you. 

Running up out of the night, bringing your cluster of stars, (ever- 
enlarging stars,) 

Divider of daybreak you, cutting the air, touch'd by the sun, 
measuring the sky, 

(Passionately seen and yearn'd for by one poor httle child, 

While others remain busy or smartly talking, forever teaching 
thrift, thrift;) 

you up there ! O pennant ! where you undulate like a snake 

hissing so curious. 
Out of reach, an idea only, yet furiously fought for, risking bloody 

death, loved by me, 
So loved — O you banner leading the day with stars brought from 

the night ! 
Valueless, object of eyes, over all and demanding all — (absolute 

owner of all) — O banner and pennant ! 

1 too leave the rest — great as it is, it is nothing — houses, 

machines are nothing — I see them not, 
I see but you, O warlike pennant ! O banner so broad, with stripes, 

I sing you only. 
Flapping up there in the wind. 


Rise O days from your fathomless deeps, till you loftier, fiercer 

Long for my soul hungering gymnastic I devoured what the earth 

gave me. 
Long I roam'd the woods of the north, long I watch'd Niagara 

I traveled the prairies over and slept on their breast, I crossed the 

Nevadas, I cross'd the plateaus, 
I ascended the towering rocks along the Pacific, I sail'd out to 

I saird through the storm, I was refresh'd by the storm, 
I watch'd with joy the threatening maws of the waves, 
I mark'd the white combs where they career'd so high, curling 

I heard the wind piping, I saw the black clouds, 

Drum-Taps. 229 

Saw from below what arose and mounted, (O superb ! O wild as 

my heart, and powerful !) 
Heard the continuous thunder as it bellow'd after the lightning. 
Noted the slender and jagged threads of lightning as sudden and 

fast amid the din they chased each other across the sky ; 
These, and such as these, I, elate, saw — saw with wonder, yet 

pensive and masterful. 
All the menacing might of the globe uprisen around me, 
Yet there with my soul I fed, I fed content, supercilious. 

Twas well, O soul — 'twas a good preparation you gave me, 

Now we advance our latent and ampler hunger to fill. 

Now we go forth to receive what the earth and the sea never 

gave us. 
Not through the mighty woods we go, but through the mightier 

Something for us is pouring now more than Niagara pouring. 
Torrents of men, (sources and rills of the Northwest are you 

indeed inexhaustible ?) 
What, to pavements and homesteads here, what were those storms 

of the mountains and sea? 
What, to passions I witness around me to-day ? was the sea risen ? 
Was the wind piping the pipe of death under the black clouds ? 
Lo ! from deeps more unfathomable, something more deadly and 

Manhattan rising, advancing with menacing front — Cincinnati, 

Chicago, unchain'd ; 
What was that swell I saw on the ocean ? behold what comes here, 
How it cHmbs with daring feet and hands — how it dashes ! 
How the true thunder bellows after the lightning — how bright 

the flashes of lightning ! 
How Democracy with desperate vengeful port strides on, shown 

through the dark by those flashes of lightning ! 
(Yet a mournful wail and low sob I fancied I heard through the 

In a lull of the deafening confusion.) 

Thunder on ! stride on. Democracy ! strike with vengeful stroke ! 
And do you rise higher than ever yet O days, O cities ! 
Crash heavier, heavier yet O storms ! you have done me good, 
My soul prepared in the mountains absorbs your immortal strong 

230 Leaves of Grass. 

Long had I walk'd my cities, my country roads through farms, 

only half satisfied, 
One doubt nauseous undulating Hke a snake, crawl'd on the 

ground before me. 
Continually preceding my steps, turning upon me oft, ironically 

hissing low ; 
The cities I loved so well I abandon'd and left, I sped to the 

certainties suitable to me. 
Hungering, hungering, hungering, for primal energies and Nature's 

I refresh'd myself with it only, I could relish it only, 
I waited the bursting forth of the pent fire — on the water and air 

I waited long ; 
But now I no longer wait, I am fully satisfied, I am glutted, 
I have witness'd the true lightning, I have witness'd my cities 

I have lived to behold man burst forth and warlike America rise, 
Hence I will seek no more the food of the northern solitary wilds, 
No more the mountains roam or sail the stormy sea. 


The noble sire fallen on evil days, 
I saw with hand upHfted, menacing, brandishing, 
(Memories of old in abeyance, love and faith in abeyance,) 
The insane knife toward the Mother of All. 

The noble son on sinewy feet advancing, 

I saw, out of the land of prairies, land of Ohio's waters and of 

To the rescue the stalwart giant hurry his plenteous offspring, 
Drest in blue, bearing their trusty rifles on their shoulders. 

Then the Mother of All with calm voice speaking. 

As to you Rebellious, (I seemed to hear her say,) why strive 

against me, and why seek my fife ? 
When you yourself forever provide to defend me? 
For you provided me Washington — and now these also. 


City of ships ! 

(O the black ships ! O the fierce ships ! 

O the beautiful sharp-bow'd steam-ships and sail-ships !) 

Drum-Taps. 231 

City of the world ! (for all races are here, 

All the lands of the earth make contributions here ;) 

City of the sea ! city of hurried and glittering tides ! 

City whose gleeful tides continually rush or recede, whirling in 
and out with eddies and foam ! 

City of wharves and stores — city of tall fagades of marble and 
iron ! 

Proud and passionate city — mettlesome, mad, extravagant city ! 

Spring up O city — not for peace alone, but be indeed yourself, 
Avarlike ! 

Fear not — submit to no models but your own O city ! 

Behold me — incarnate me as I have incarnated you ! 

I have rejected nothing you offer'd me — whom you adopted I 
have adopted, 

Good or bad I never question you — I love all — I do not con- 
demn any thing, 

I chant and celebrate all that is yours — yet peace no more, 

In peace I chanted peace, but now the drum of war is mine, 

War, red war is my song through your streets, O city ! 


Volunteer of 1861-2, {at Washington Park^ Brooklyn^ assisting the Centenarian.) 

Give me your hand old Revolutionary, 

The hill-top is nigh, but a few steps, (make room gentlemen,) 

Up the path you have foUow'd me well, spite of your hundred and 

extra years. 
You can walk old man, though your eyes are almost done, 
Your faculties serve you, and presently I must have them serve me. 

Rest, while I tell what the crowd around us means, 
On the plain below recruits are drilling and exercising, 
There is the camp, one regiment departs to-morrow, 
Do you hear the officers giving their orders ? 
Do you hear the clank of the muskets ? 

Why what comes over you now old man ? 

Why do you tremble and clutch my hand so convulsively ? 

The troops are but drilling, they are yet surrounded with smiles, 

Around them at hand the well-drest friends and the women. 

While splendid and warm the afternoon sun shines down. 

Green the midsummer verdure and fresh blows the dallying 

O'er proud and peaceful cities and arm of the sea between. 

232 Leaves of Grass. 

But drill and parade are over, they march back to quarters, 
Only hear that approval of hands ! hear what a clapping ! 

As wending the crowds now part and disperse — but we old man, 
Not for nothing have I brought you hither — we must remain, 
You to speak in your turn, and I to listen and tell. 

The Centejtarian, 

When I clutch'd your hand it was not with terror, 

But suddenly pouring about me here on every side. 

And below there where the boys were drilling, and up the slopes 

they ran. 
And where tents are pitch'd, and wherever you see south and 

south-east and south-west, 
Over hills, across lowlands, and in the skirts of woods, 
And along the shores, in mire (now fill'd over) came again and 

suddenly raged. 
As eighty-five years a-gone no mere parade receiv'd with applause 

of friends. 
But a battle which I took part in myself — aye, long ago as it is, 

I took part in it. 
Walking then this hilltop, this same ground. 

Aye, this is the ground. 

My blind eyes even as I speak behold it re-peopled from graves, 

The years recede, pavements and stately houses disappear. 

Rude forts appear again, the old hoop'd guns are mounted, 

I see the lines of rais'd earth stretching from river to bay, 

I mark the vista of waters, I mark the uplands and slopes ; 

Here we lay encamp'd, it was this time in summer also. 

As I talk I remember all, I remember the Declaration, 

It was read here, the whole army paraded, it was read to us here, 

By his staff surrounded the General stood in the middle, he held 

up his unsheath'd sword, 
It glitter'd in the sun in full sight of the army. . 

Twas a bold act then — the Enghsh war-ships had just arrived, 
We could watch down the lower bay where they lay at anchor, 
And the transports swarming with soldiers. 

A few days more and they landed, and then the battle. 

Twenty thousand were brought against us, 
A veteran force furnish'd with good artillery. 

Drum-Taps. 233 

I tell not now the whole of the battle, 

But one brigade early in the forenoon order'd forward to engage 

the red-coats, 
Of that brigade I tell, and how steadily it march'd, 
And how long and well it stood confronting death. 

Who do you think that was marching steadily sternly confronting 

death ? 
It was the brigade of the youngest men, two thousand strong, 
Rais'd in Virginia and Maryland, and most of them known per- 
sonally to the General. 

Jauntily forward they went with quick step toward Gowanus' waters, 
Till of a sudden unlook'd for by defiles through the woods, gain'd 

at night. 
The British advancing, rounding in from the east, fiercely playing 

their guns, 
That brigade of the youngest was cut off and at the enemy's mercy. 

The General watch'd them from this hill. 

They made repeated desperate attempts to burst their environment, 

Then drew close together, very compact, their flag flying in the 

But O from the hills how the cannon were thinning and thinning 

them ! 

It sickens me yet, that slaughter ! 

I saw the moisture gather in drops on the face of the General. 

I saw how he wrung his hands in anguish. 

Meanwhile the British manoeuvr'd to draw us out for a pitch'd 

But we dared not trust the chances of a pitch'd battle. 

We fought the fight in detachments. 

Sallying forth we fought at several points, but in each the luck was 

against us. 
Our foe advancing, steadily getting the best of it, push'd us back 

to the works on this hill. 
Till we turn'd menacing here, and then he left us. 

That was the going out of the brigade of the youngest men, two 

thousand strong. 
Few return'd, nearly all remain in Brooklyn. 

234 Leaves of Grass. 

That and here my General's first battle, 

No women looking on nor sunshine to bask in, it did not conclude 

with applause, 
Nobody clapp'd hands here then. 

But in darkness in mist on the ground under a chill rain, 

Wearied that night we lay foil'd and sullen. 

While scornfully laugh'd many an arrogant lord off against us 

Quite within hearing, feasting, clinking wineglasses together over 

their victory. 

So dull and damp and another day. 
But the night of that, mist lifting, rain ceasing, 
Silent as a ghost while they thought they were sure of him, my 
General retreated. 

I saw him at the river-side, 

Down by the ferry Ht by torches, hastening the embarcation ; 

My General waited till the soldiers and wounded were all pass'd 

And then, (it was just ere sunrise,) these eyes rested on him for 

the last time. 

Every one else seem'd fill'd with gloom. 
Many no doubt thought of capitulation. 

But when my General pass'd me. 

As he stood in his boat and look'd toward the coming sun, 

I saw something different from capitulation. 


Enough, the Centenarian's story ends. 
The two, the past and present, have interchanged, 
I myself as connecter, as chansonnier of a great future, am now 

And is this the ground Washington trod ? 

And these waters I listlessly daily cross, are these the waters he 

As resolute in defeat as other generals in their proudest triumphs ? 

I must copy the story, and send it eastward and westward, 

I must preserve that look as it beam'd on you rivers of Brooklyn. 

See — as the annual round returns the phantoms return, 
It is the 27th of August and the British have landed, 

Drum-Taps. 235 

The battle begins, and goes against us behold through the smoke 
Washington's face, 

The brigade of Virginia and Maryland have march'd forth to inter- 
cept the enemy, 

They are cut off, murderous artillery from the hills plays upon 

Rank after rank falls, while over them silently droops the flag, 

Baptized that day in many a young man's bloody wounds, 

In death, defeat, and sisters', mothers' tears. 

Ah, hills and slopes of Brooklyn ! I perceive you are more valuable 

than your owners supposed ; 
In the midst of you stands an encampment very old, 
Stands forever the camp of that dead brigade. 


A LINE in long array where they wind betwixt green islands, 

They take a serpentine course, their arms flash in the sun ~ hark 

to the musical clank. 
Behold the silvery river, in it the splashing horses loitering stop to 

Behold the brown-faced men, each group, each person, a picture, 

the neghgent rest on the saddles. 
Some emerge on the opposite bank, others are just entering the 

ford — while. 
Scarlet and blue and snowy white, 
The guidon flags flutter gayly in the wind. 


I SEE before me now a traveling army halting, 

Below a fertile valley spread, with barns and the orchards of 

Behind, the terraced sides of a mountain, abrupt, in places rising 

Broken, with rocks, with clinging cedars, with tall shapes dingily 

The numerous camp-fires scatter'd near and far, some away up on 

the mountain, 
The shadowy forms of men and horses, looming, large-sized, 

And over all the sky — the sky ! far, far out of reach, studded, 

breaking out, the eternal stars. 

236 Leaves of Grass. 


With its cloud of skirmishers in advance, 

With now the sound of a single shot snapping like a whip, and 

now an irregular volley. 
The swarming ranks press on and on, the dense brigades press 

Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun — the dust-cover'd men, 
In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the ground. 
With artillery interspersed — the wheels rumble, the horses sweat, 
As the army corps advances. 


By the bivouac's fitful flame, 

A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and slow — but 

first I note, 
The tents of the sleeping army, the fields' and woods' dim 

The darkness lit by spots of kindled fire, the silence, 
Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving. 
The shrubs and trees, (as I lift my eyes they seem to be stealthily 

watching me,) 
While wind in procession thoughts, O tender and wondrous 

Of life and death, of home and the past and loved, and of those 

that are far away ; 
A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the ground, 
By the bivouac's fitful flame. 


Come up from the fields father, here's a letter from our Pete, 
And come to the front door mother, here's a letter from thy dear 

Lo, 'tis autumn, 

Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder. 

Cool and sweeten Ohio's villages with leaves fluttering in the 

moderate wind, 
Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and grapes on the trellis'd 

(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines ? 
Smell you the buckwheat where the bees w^ere lately buzzing ?) 

Drum-Taps. 237 

Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent after the rain, and 

with wondrous clouds, 
Below too, all calm^ all vital and beautiful, and the farm prospers 


Down in the fields all prospers well. 

But now from the fields come father, come at the daughter's call, 

And come to the entry mother, to the front door come right away. 

Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous, her steps 

She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor adjust her cap. 

Open the envelope quickly, 

O this is not our son's writing, yet his name is sign'd, 

O a strange hand writes for our dear son, O stricken mother's soul ! 

All swims before her eyes, flashes with black, she catches the main 

words only. 
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish, 

taken to hospital^ 
At present low, bict will soon be better. 

Ah now the single figure to me, 

Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and farms, 

Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint. 

By the jamb of a door leans. 

Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks 

through her sobs. 
The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay 'd,) 
See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better, 

Alas poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be needs to be 

better, that brave and simple soul,) 
While they stand at home at the door he is dead already. 
The only son is dead. 

But the mother needs to be better. 

She with thin form presently drest in black, 

By day her meals untouch'd, then at night fitfully sleeping, often 

In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep longing, 
O that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from hfe escape and 

To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son. 

238 Leaves of Grass. 


Vigil strange I kept on the field one night ; 

When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day, 

One look I but gave which your dear eyes return'd with a look I 

shall never forget, 
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach'd up as you lay on 

the ground. 
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle, 
Till late in the night reliev'd to the place at last again I made my 

Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son " 

of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,) 
Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the 

moderate night-wind, 
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battle- 
field spreading. 
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night. 
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed, 
Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side leaning my 

chin in my hands, 
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest 

comrade — not a tear, not a word. 
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my 

As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole, 
Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your 

I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall 

surely meet again,) 
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn 

My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop 'd well his form. 
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and care- 
fully under feet. 
And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his 

grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited. 
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field 

Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth 

Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day 

I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his 

And buried him where he fell. 

Drum-Taps. 239 


A MARCH in the ranks hard-prest, and the road unknown, 
A route through a heavy wood with muffled steps in the darkness, 
Our army foil'd with loss severe, and the sullen remnant retreating, 
Till after midnight ghmmer upon us the lights of a dim-lighted 

We come to an open space in the woods, and halt by the dim- 
lighted building, 
Tis a large old church at the crossing roads, now an impromptu 

Entering but for a minute I see a sight beyond all the pictures and 

poems ever made, 
Shadows of deepest, deepest black, just lit by moving candles and 

And by one great pitchy torch stationary with wild red flame and 

clouds of smoke. 
By these, crowds, groups of forms vaguely I see on the floor, some 

in the pews laid down. 
At my feet more distinctly a soldier, a mere lad, in danger of 

bleeding to death, (he is shot in the abdomen,) 
I stanch the blood temporarily, (the youngster's face is white as 

a lily,) 
Then before I depart I sweep my eyes o'er the scene fain to 

absorb it all. 
Faces, varieties, postures beyond description, most in obscurity, 

some of them dead, 
Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell of ether, 

the odor of blood. 
The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms, the yard outside 

also flll'd. 
Some on the bare ground, some on planks or stretchers, some in 

the death-spasm sweating, 
An occasional scream or cry, the doctor's shouted orders or calls. 
The glisten of the little steel instruments catching the glint of the 

These I resume as I chant, I see again the forms, I smell the odor, 
Then hear outside the orders given. Fall in, my men, fall in ; 
But first I bend to the dying lad, his eyes open, a half-smile gives 

he me. 
Then the eyes close, calmly close, and I speed forth to the 

Resuming, marching, ever in darkness marching, on in the ranks, 
The unknown road still marching. 

240 Leaves of Grass. 



A SIGHT in camp in the daybreak gray and dim, 

As frojra my tent I emerge so early sleepless, 

As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the path near by the hospital 

Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there untended 

Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket. 
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all. 

Curious I halt and silent stand. 

Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest the first just 

lift the blanket ; 
Who are you elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-gray'd 

hair, and flesh all sunken about the eyes ? 
Who are you my dear comrade ? 

Then to the second I step — and who are you my child and 

darling ? 
Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming? 

Then to the third — a face nor child nor old, very calm, as of 

beautiful yellow- white ivory ; 
Young man I think I know you — I think this face is the face 

of the Christ himself. 
Dead and divine and brother of all, and here again he lies. 


As toilsome I wander'd Virginia's woods. 

To the music of rustling leaves kick'd by my feet, (for 'twas 

I mark'd at the foot of a tree the grave of a soldier ; 
Mortally wounded he and buried on the retreat, (easily all could 

I understand,) 
The halt of a mid-day hour, when up ! no time to lose — yet this 

sign left. 
On a tablet scrawFd and nail'd on the tree by the grave, 
Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade. 

Long, long I muse, then on my way go wandering, 

Many a changeful season to follow, and many a scene of life, 

Drum-Taps. 241 

Yet at times through changeful season and scene, abrupt, alone, 
or in the crowded street, 

Comes before me the unknown soldier's grave, comes the inscrip- 
tion rude in Virginia's woods, 

Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade. 


Not the pilot has charged himself to bring his ship into port, 
though beaten back and many times baffled ; 

Not the pathfinder penetrating inland weary and long. 

By deserts parch'd, snows chill 'd, rivers wet, perseveres till he 
reaches his destination, 

More than I have charged myself, heeded or unheeded, to com- 
pose a march for these States, 

For a battle-call, rousing to arms if need be, years, centuries 


Year that trembled and reel'd beneath me ! 

Your summer wind was warm enough, yet the air I breathed 

froze me, 
A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken'd me, 
Must I change my triumphant songs ? said I to myself, 
Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled? 
And sullen hymns of defeat ? 


An old man bending I come among new faces. 
Years looking backward resuming in answer to children, 
Come tell us old man, as from young men and maidens that love 

(Arous'd and angry, I'd thought to beat the alarum, and urge 

relentless war, 
But soon my fingers fail'd me, my face droop'd and I resign'd 

To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the 

dead ;) 
Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions, these 


242 Leaves of Grass. 

Of unsurpass'd heroes, (was one side so brave? the other was 

equally brave ;) 
Now be witness again, paint the mightiest armies of earth, 
Of those armies so rapid so wondrous what saw you to tell us ? 
What stays with you latest and deepest ? of curious panics, 
Of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what deepest 

remains ? 

maidens and young men I love and that love me. 

What you ask of my days those the strangest and sudden your 

talking recalls. 
Soldier alert I arrive after a long march cover'd with sweat and 

In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly shout in 

the rush of successful charge. 
Enter the captur'd works — yet lo, like a swift-running river they 

Pass and are gone they fade — I dwell not on soldiers' perils or 

soldiers' joys, 
(Both I remember well — many the hardships, few the joys, yet I 

was content.) 

But in silence, in dreams' projections. 

While the world of gain and appearance and mirth goes on. 

So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the imprints off 

the sand. 
With hinged knees returning I enter the doors, (while for you up 

Whoever you are, follow without noise and be of strong heart.) 

Bearing the bandages, water and sponge. 
Straight and swift to my wounded I go. 
Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in. 
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass the ground. 
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof d hospital, 
To the long rows of cots up and down each side I return, 
To each and all one after another I draw near, not one do I miss, 
An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse pail. 
Soon to be fiU'd with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and fill'd 

1 onward go, I stop. 

With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds, 

I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable, 

Drum-Taps, . 243 

One turns to me his appealing eyes — poor boy ! I never knew 

Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that 

would save you. 


On, on I go, (open doors of time ! open hospital doors !) 

The crush'd head I dress, (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage 

The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through 

I examine. 
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life 

struggles hard, 
(Come sweet death ! be persuaded O beautiful death ! 
In mercy come quickly.) 

From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand, 

I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter 
and blood. 

Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv'd neck and side- 
falling head. 

His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the 
bloody stump, 

And has not yet look'd on it. 

I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep. 

But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking, 

And the yellow-blue countenance see. 

I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound, 
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sicken- 
ing, so offensive, 
While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and 

I am faithful, I do not give out. 

The fractur'd thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen, 
These and more I dress with impassive hand, (yet deep in my 
breast a fire, a burning flame.) 

Thus in silence in dreams* projections. 

Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals, 

The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand, 

I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young, 

244 Leaves of Grass. 

Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad, 
(Many a soldier's loving arms about this neck have cross'd and 

Many a soldier's kiss dwells on these bearded lips.) 


Long, too long America, 

Traveling roads all even and peaceful you learn'd from joys and 
prosperity only, 

But now, ah now, to learn from crises of anguish, advancing, grap- 
pling with direst fate and recoiling not, 

And now to conceive and show to the world what your children 
en- masse really are, 

(For who except myself has yet conceiv'd what your children 
en-masse really are ?) 


Give me the splendid silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling, 

Give me juicy autumnal fruit ripe and red from the orchard, 

Give me a field where the unmow'd grass grows. 

Give me an arbor, give me the trellis'd grape. 

Give me fresh corn and wheat, give me serene-moving animals 

teaching content. 
Give me nights perfecdy quiet as on high plateaus west of the 

Mississippi, and I looking up at the stars. 
Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I 

can walk undisturb'd, 
Give me for marriage a sweet-breath'd woman of whom I should 

never tire. 
Give me a perfect child, give me away aside from the noise of the 

world a rural domestic life. 
Give me to warble spontaneous songs recluse by myself, for my 

own ears only. 
Give me solitude, give me Nature, give me again O Nature your 

primal sanities ! 

These demanding to have them, (tired with ceaseless excitement, 

and rack'd by the war-strife,) 
These to procure incessantly asking, rising in cries from my heart, 
While yet incessantly asking still I adhere to my city, 

Drum-Taps. 245 

Day upon day and year upon year O city, walking your streets, 
Where you hold me enchain'd a certain time refusing to give me 

Yet giving to make me glutted, enrich'd of soul, you give me 

forever faces ; 
(O I see what I sought to escape, confronting, reversing my cries, 
I see my own soul trampling down what it ask'd for.) 

Keep your splendid silent sun, 

Keep your woods O Nature, and the quiet places by the 

Keep your fields of clover and timothy, and your corn-fields and 

Keep the blossoming buckwheat fields where the Ninth-month 

bees hum ; 
Give me faces and streets — give me these phantoms incessant 

and endless along the trottoirs ! 
Give me interminable eyes — give me women — give me comrades 

and lovers by the thousand ! 
Let me see new ones every day — let me hold new ones by the 

hand every day ! 
Give me such shows — give me the streets of Manhattan ! 
Give me Broadway, with the soldiers marching — give me the 

sound of the trumpets and drums ! 
(The soldiers in companies or regiments — some starting away, 

flush'd and reckless. 
Some, their time up, returning with thinn'd ranks, young, yet very 

old, worn, marching, noticing nothing ;) 
Give me the shores and wharves heavy-fringed with black 

ships ! 
O such for me ! O an intense life, full to repletion and varied ! 
The life of the theatre, bar-room, huge hotel, for me ! 
The saloon of the steamer ! the crowded excursion for me ! the 

torchlight procession ! 
The dense brigade bound for the war, with high piled military 

wagons following ; 
People, endless, streaming, with strong voices, passions, pageants, 
Manhattan streets with their powerful throbs, with beating drums 

as now, 
The endless and noisy chorus, the rustle and clank of muskets, 

(even the sight of the wounded,) 
Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus ! 
Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me. 

246 Leaves of Grass. 


The last sunbeam 
Liglitly falls from the finish' d Sabbath, 
On the pavem.ent here, and there beyond it is looking, 

Down a new-made double grave. 

Lo, the moon ascending. 
Up from the east the silvery round moon. 
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon, 

Immense and silent moon. 

I see a sad procession, 
And I hear the sound of coming full-key'd bugles, 
All the channels of the city streets they're flooding. 

As with voices and with tears. 

I hear the great drums pounding, 
And the small drums steady whirring. 
And every blow of the great convulsive drums. 

Strikes me through and through* 

For the son is brought with the father, 
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell, 
Two veterans son and father dropt together. 

And the double grave awaits them.) 

Now nearer blow the bugles, 
And the drums strike more convulsive, 
And the daylight o'er the pavement quite has faded, 

And the strong dead-march enwraps me. 

In the eastern sky up-buoying. 
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin'd, 
('Tis some mother's large transparent face. 

In heaven brighter growing.) 

O strong dead-march you please me ! 
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me ! 
O my soldiers twain ! O my veterans passing to burial ! 

What I have I also give you. 

The moon gives you light. 
And the bugles and the drums give you music, 
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans, 

My heart gives you love. 

Drum-Taps, 247 


Over the carnage rose prophetic a voice, 

Be not dishearten'd, affection shall solve the problems of freedom 

Those who love each other shall become invincible, 
They shall yet make Columbia victorious. 

Sons of the Mother of All, you shall yet be victorious, 
You shall yet laugh to scorn the attacks of all the remainder of 
the earth. 

No danger shall balk Columbia's lovers. 

If need be a thousand shall sternly immolate themselves for one. 

One from Massachusetts shall be a Missourian's comrade, 

From Maine and from hot Carolina, and another an Oregonese, 

shall be friends triune. 
More precious to each other than all the riches of the earth. 

To Michigan, Florida perfumes shall tenderly come, 

Not the perfumes of flowers, but sweeter, and wafted beyond death. 

It shall be customary in the houses and streets to see manly 

The most dauntless and rude shall touch face to face lightly, 
The dependence of Liberty shall be lovers, 
The continuance of Equality shall be comrades. 

These shall tie you and band you stronger than hoops of iron, 
I, ecstatic, O partners ! O lands ! with the love of lovers tie you. 

(Were you looking to be held together by lawyers ? 

Or by an agreement on a paper ? or by arms ? 

Nay, nor the world, nor any living thing, will so cohere.) 


I SAW old General at bay, 

(Old as he was, his gray eyes yet shone out in battle like stars,) 

His small force was now completely hemm'd in, in his works. 

He call'd for volunteers to run the enemy's lines, a desperate 

I saw a hundred and more step forth from the ranks,, but two or 

three were selected, 

248 Leaves of Grass. 

I saw them receive their orders aside, they listened with care, the 

adjutant was very grave, 
I saw them depart with cheerfulness, freely risking their lives. 


While my wife at my side lies slumbering, and the wars are over 

And my head on the pillow rests at home, and the vacant mid- 
night passes. 
And through the stillness, through the dark, I hear, just hear, the 

breath of my infant. 
There in the room as I wake from sleep this vision presses upon me ; 
The engagement opens there and then in fantasy unreal, 
The skirmishers begin, they crawl cautiously ahead, I hear the 

irregular snap ! snap ! 
I hear the sounds of the different missiles, the short t-h-tf t-h-t! 

of the rifle-balls, 
I see the shells exploding leaving small white clouds, I hear the 

great shells shrieking as they pass. 
The grape like the hum and whirr of wind through the trees, 

(tumultuous now the contest rages,) 
All the scenes at the batteries rise in detail before me again, 
The crashing and smoking, the pride of the men in their pieces. 
The chief-gunner ranges and sights his piece and selects a fuse of 

the right time. 
After firing I see him lean aside and look eagerly off to note the 

effect ; 
Elsewhere I hear the cry of a regiment charging, (the young 

colonel leads himself this time with brandish'd sword,) 
I see the gaps cut by the enemy's volleys, (quickly fill'd up, no 

I breathe the suffocating smoke, then the fiat clouds hover low 

concealing all ; 
Now a strange lull for a few seconds, not a shot fired on either side, 
Then resumed the chaos louder than ever, with eager calls and 

orders of officers. 
While from some distant part of the field the wind wafts to my 

ears a shout of applause, (some special success,) 
i\nd ever the sound of the cannon far or near, (rousing even in 

dreams a devilish exultation and all the old mad joy in the 

depths of my soul,) 
And ever the hastening of infantry shifting positions, batteries, 

cavalry, moving hither and thither, 

DruM'Taps. 249 

(The falling, dying, I heed not, the wounded dripping and red I 

heed not, some to the rear are hobbHng,) 
Grime, heat, rush, aide-de-camps galloping by or on a full run. 
With the patter of small arms, the warning s-s-t of the rifles, (these 

in my vision I hear or see,) 
And bombs bursting in air, and at night the vari-color'd rockets. 


Who are you dusky woman, so ancient hardly human. 

With your woolly-white and turban'd head, and bare bony feet? 

Why rising by the roadside here, do you the colors greet ? 

('Tis while our army lines Carohna^s sands and pines. 
Forth from thy hovel door thou Ethiopia com'st to me, 
As under doughty Sherman I march toward the sea.) 

Me master years a hundred since from my parents sunder' d^ 
A little child ^ they caught me as the savage beast is caicght, 
Then hither me across the sea the cruel slaver bi^ought. 

No further does she say, but lingering all the day. 

Her high-borne turban'd head she wags, and rolls her darkling 

And courtesies to the regiments, the guidons moving by. 

What is it fateful woman, so blear, hardly human ? 

W'hy wag your head with turban bound, yellow, red and green ? 

Are the things so strange and marvelous you see or have seen ? 


Not youth pertains to me. 

Nor delicatesse, I cannot beguile the time with talk. 

Awkward in the parlor, neither a dancer nor elegant. 

In the learn'd coterie sitting constrain'd and still, for learning 

inures not to me. 
Beauty, knowledge, inure not to me — yet there are two or three 

things inure to me, 
I have nourish'd the wounded and sooth'd many a dying soldier, 
And at intervals waiting or in the midst of camp, 
Composed these songs. 

250 Leaves of Grass. 


Race of veterans — race of victors ! 

Race of the soil, ready for conflict — race of the conquering march ! 

(No more credulity's race, abiding-temper'd race,) 

Race henceforth owning no law but the law of itself, 

Race of passion and the storm. 


World take good notice, silver stars fading. 
Milky hue ript, weft of white detaching. 
Coals thirty-eight, baleful and burning. 
Scarlet, significant, hands off warning, 
Now and henceforth flaunt from these shores. 


O TAN-FACED prairic-boy, 

Before you came to camp came many a welcome gift. 

Praises and presents came and nourishing food, till at last among 

the recruits. 
You came, taciturn, with nothing to give — we but look'd on each 

When lo ! more than all the gifts of the world you gave me. 


^ Look down fair moon and bathe this scene, 

Pour softly down night's nimbus floods on faces ghastly, swollen, 

On the dead on their backs with arms toss'd wide, 
Pour down your unstinted nimbus sacred moon. 


Word over all, beautiful as the sky. 

Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be 

utterly lost. 
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly softly 

wash again, and ever again, this soil'd world ; 

Drum-Taps. 251 

For my enemy is dead, a man divine as mysel-f is dead, 

I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin — I draw 

Bend down and touch lighdy with my lips the white face in the 



(^Washington Ciiy^ 1865.) 

How solemn as one by one. 

As the ranks returning worn and sweaty, as the men file by where 

I stand. 
As the faces the masks appear, as I glance at the faces studying the 

(As I glance upward .out of this page studying you, dear friend, 

whoever you are,) 
How solemn the thought of my whispering soul to each in the 

ranks, and to you, 
I see behind each mask that wonder a kindred soul, 
O the bullet could never kill what you really are, dear friend, 
Nor the bayonet stab what you really are ; 
The soul ! yourself I see, great as any, good as the best, 
Waiting secure and content, which the bullet could never kill, 
Nor the bayonet stab O friend. 


As I lay with my head in your lap camerado. 

The confession I made I resume, what I said to you and the open 

air I resume, 
I know I am restless and make others so, 
I know my words are weapons full of danger, full of death, 
For I confront peace, security, and all the settled laws, to unsettle 

I am more resolute because all have denied me than I could ever 

have been had all accepted me, 
I heed not and have never heeded either experience, cautions, 

majorities, nor ridicule. 
And the threat of what is call'd hell is little or nothing to me, 
And the lure of what is call'd heaven is little or nothing to me ; 
Dear camerado ! I confess I have urged you onward with me, and 

still urge you, without the least idea what is our destination, 
Or whether we shall be victorious, or utterly quell'd and defeated. 

2$2 Leaves of Grass. 


Delicate cluster ! flag of teeming life ! 

Covering all my lands — all my seashores lining ! 

Flag of death ! (how I watch 'd you through the smoke of battle 

pressing ! 
How I heard you flap and rustle, cloth defiant !) 
Flag cerulean — sunny flag, with the orbs of night dappled ! 
Ah my silvery beauty — ah my woolly white and crimson ! 
Ah to sing the song of you, my matron mighty ! 
My sacred one, my mother. 


Did you ask dulcet rhymes from me ? 

Did you seek the civiHan's peaceful and languishing rhymes ? 

Did you find what I sang erewhile so hard to follow? 

Why I was not singing erewhile for you to follow, to understand — 
nor am I now ; 

(I have been born of the same as the war was born, 

The drum-corps' rattle is ever to me sweet music, I love well the 
martial dirge. 

With slow wail and convulsive throb leading the officer's funeral ;) 

What to such as you anyhow such a poet as I ? therefore leave my 

And go lull yourself with what you can understand, and with piano- 

For I lull nobody, and you will never understand me. 


Lo, Victress on the peaks. 

Where thou with mighty brow regarding the world, 

(The world O Libertad, that vainly conspired against thee,) 

Out of its countless beleaguering toils, after thwarting them all, 

Dominant, with the dazzling sun around thee, 

Flauntest now unharm'd in immortal soundness and bloom — lo, in 

these hours supreme. 
No poem proud, I chanting bring to thee, nor mastery's rapturous 

But a cluster containing night's darkness and blood-dripping 

And psalms of the dead. 

Drum-Taps. 253 


{Wash'nigton City^ 1865.) 

Spirit whose work is done — spirit of dreadful hours ! 

Ere departing fade from my eyes your forests of bayonets ; 

Spirit of gloomiest fears and doubts, (yet onward ever unfaltering 

Spirit of many a solemn day and many a savage scene — electric 

That with muttering voice through the war now closed, like a tire- 
less phantom flitted, 
Rousing the land with breath of flame, while you beat and beat 

the drum, 
Now as the sound of the drum, hollow and harsh to the last, 

reverberates round me, 
As your ranks, your immortal ranks, return, return from the battles, 
As the muskets of the young men yet lean over their shoulders. 
As I look on the bayonets bristhng over their shoulders. 
As those slanted bayonets, whole forests of them appearing in the 

distance, approach and pass on, returning homeward. 
Moving with steady motion, swaying to and fro to the right and 

Evenly lightly rising and falling while the steps keep time ; 
Spirit of hours I knew, all hectic red one day, but pale as death 

next day. 
Touch my mouth ere you depart, press my lips close. 
Leave me your pulses of rage — bequeath them to me — fill me 

with currents convulsive. 
Let them scorch and blister out of my chants when you are gone. 
Let them identify you to the future in these songs. 


Adieu O soldier, 

You of the rude campaigning, (which we shared,) 

The rapid march, the life of the camp. 

The hot contention of opposing fronts, the long manoeuvre, 

Red battles with their slaughter, the stimulus, the strong terrific 

Spell of all brave and manly hearts, the trains of time through you 

and like of you all fill'd, 
With war and war's expression. 

Adieu dear comrade, 

Your mission is fulfill'd — but I, more warlike, 

254 Leaves of Grass. 

Myself and this contentious soul of mine, 

Still on our own campaigning bound, 

Through untried roads with ambushes opponents lined, 

Through many a sharp defeat and many a crisis, often baffled, 

Here marching, ever marching on, a war fight out — aye here, 

To fiercer, weightier battles give expression. 


Turn O Libertad, for the war is over. 

From it and all henceforth expanding, doubting no more, resolute, 

sweeping the world. 
Turn from lands retrospective recording proofs of the past. 
From the singers that sing the trailing glories of the past, 
From the chants of the feudal world, the triumphs of kings, slavery, 

Turn to the world, the triumphs reserv'd and to come — give up 

that backward world, 
Leave to the singers of hitherto, give them the trailing past. 
But what remains remains for singers for you — wars to come are 

for you, 
(Lo, how the wars of the past have duly inured to you, and the 

wars of the present also inure ;) 
Then turn, and be not alarni'd O Libertad — turn your undying 

To where the future, greater than all the past, 
Is swiftly, surely preparing for you. 


To the leaven'd soil they trod calling I sing for the last, 
(Forth from my tent emerging for good, loosing, untying the tent- 
In the freshness the forenoon air, in the far-stretching circuits and 

vistas again to peace restored. 
To the fiery fields emanative and the endless vistas beyond, to the 

South and the North, 
To the leaven'd soil of the general Western world to attest my 

To the Alleghanian hills and the tireless Mississippi, 
To the rocks I calling sing, and all the trees in the woods. 
To the plains of the poems of heroes, to the prairies spreading 

Memories of President Lincoln. 255 

To the far-off sea and the unseen winds, and the sane impalpable 

And responding they answer all, (but not in words,) 
The average earth, the witness of war and peace, acknowledges 

The prairie draws me close, as the father to bosom broad the son, 
The Northern ice and rain that began me nourish me to the end, 
But the hot sun of the South is to fully ripen my songs. 




When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd. 

And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night, 

I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring. 

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring. 
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west, 
And thought of him I love. 

O powerful western fallen star ! 
O shades of night — O moody, tearful night ! 
O great star disappear'd — O the black murk that hides the star ! 
O cruel hands that hold me powerless — O helpless soul of me ! 
O harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul. 


In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash'd 

Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich 

With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume 

strong I love, 

256 Leaves of Grass. 

With every leaf a miracle — and from this bush in the dooryard, 
With delicate-color'd blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich 

A sprig with its flower I break. 

In the swamp in secluded recesses, 

A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song. 

Solitary the thrush, 

The hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements, 

Sings by himself a song. 

Song of the bleeding throat, 

Death's outlet song of life, (for well dear brother I know. 

If thou wast not granted to sing thou would'st surely die.) 

Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities, 

Amid lanes and through old woods, where lately the violets peep'd 

from the ground, spotting the gray debris. 
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes, passing the 

endless grass, 
Passing the yellow-spear'd wheat, every grain from its shroud in 

the dark-brown fields uprisen. 
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards. 
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave. 
Night and day journeys a cofiin. 

Coffin that passes through lanes and streets. 
Through day and night with the great cloud darkening the land. 
With the pomp of the inloop'd flags with the cities draped in black, 
With the show of the States themselves as of crape-veil'd women 

With processions long and winding and the flambeaus of the night. 
With the countless torches lit, with the silent sea of faces and the 

unbared heads. 
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces. 
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising 

strong and solemn. 
With all the mournful voices of the dirges pour'd around the coffin, 
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs — where amid 

these you journey, 

Memories of President Lincoln, 257 

With the tolling tolling bells' perpetual clang, 
Here, coffin that slowly passes, 
I give you my sprig of lilac. 

(Nor for you, for one alone. 

Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring. 
For fresh as the morning, thus would I chant a song for you O 
sane and sacred death. 

All over bouquets of roses, 

O death, I cover you over with roses and early lilies. 

But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first. 

Copious I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes, 

With loaded arms I come, pouring for you. 

For you and the coffins all of you O death.) 


O western orb sailing the heaven. 

Now I know what you must have meant as a month since I 

As I walk'd in silence the transparent shadowy night. 
As I saw you had something to tell as you bent to me night after 

As you droop'd from the sky low down as if to my side, (while 

the other stars all look'd on,) 
As we wander'd together the solemn night, (for something I know 

not what kept me from sleep,) 
As the night advanced, and I saw on the rim of the west how full 

you were of woe. 
As I stood on the rising ground in the breeze in the cool trans- 
parent night. 
As I watch'd where you pass'd and was lost in the netherward 

black of the night, 
As my soul in its trouble dissatisfied sank, as where you sad orb. 
Concluded, dropt in the night, and was gone. 

Sing on there in the swamp, 

singer bashful and tender, I hear your notes, I hear your call, 

1 hear, I come presently, I understand you, 

But a moment I linger, for the lustrous star has detain'd me, 
The star my departing comrade holds and detains me. 

258 Leaves of Grass. 

how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved ? 

\nd how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has 

gone ? 
And what shall my perfume be for the grave of him I love ? 

Sea-winds blown from east and west, 

Blown from the Eastern sea and blown from the Western sea, till 

there on the prairies meeting, 
These and with these and the breath of my chant, 
I'll perfume the grave of him I love. 


O what shall I hang on the chamber walls ? 

And what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls, 

To adorn the burial-house of him I love ? 

Pictures of growing spring and farms and homes, 

With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray smoke lucid 

and bright, 
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent, sinking 

sun, burning, expanding the air. 
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves 

of the trees prolific. 
In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river, with a 

wind-dapple here and there. 
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line against the sky, 

and shadows, 
And the city at hand with dwellings so dense, and stacks of chim- 
And all the scenes of life and the workshops, and the workmen 

homeward returning. 

Lo, body and soul — this land, 

My own Manhattan with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying 

tides, and the ships, 
The varied and ample land, the South and the North in the light, 

Ohio's shores and flashing Missouri, 
And ever the far-spreading prairies cover'd with grass and corn. 

Lo, the most excellent sun so calm and haughty. 
The violet and purple morn with just-felt breezes, 
The gentle soft-born measureless light, 

Memories of President Lincoln. 259 

The miracle spreading bathing all, the fulfill'd noon, 

The coming eve delicious, the welcome night and the stars, 

Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land. 


Sing on, sing on you gray-brown bird, 

Sing from the swamps, the recesses, pour your chant from the 

Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines. 

Sing on dearest brother, warble your reedy song. 
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe. 

O liquid and free and tender ! 

O wild and loose to my soul — O wondrous singer ! 

You only I hear — yet the star holds me, (but will soon depart,) 

Yet the lilac with mastering odor holds me. 


Now while I sat in the day and look'd forth. 

In the close of the day with its light and the fields of spring, and 

the farmers preparing their crops, 
In the large unconscious scenery of my land with its lakes and 

In the heavenly aerial beauty, (after the perturb'd winds and the 

Under the arching heavens of the afternoon swift passing, and the 

voices of children and women. 
The many-moving sea-tides, and I saw the ships how they 

And the summer approaching with richness, and the fields all busy 

with labor, 
And the infinite separate houses, how they all went on, each with 

its meals and minutia of daily usages, 
And the streets how their throbbings throbb'd, and the cities pent 

— lo, then and there, 
Palling upon them all and among them all, enveloping me with the 

Appear'd the cloud, appear'd the long black trail. 
And I knew death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge of 


Then wkh. the knowledge of death as walking one side of me, 
And the thought of death close-walking the other side of me, 

26o Leaves of Grass. 

And I in the middle as with companions, and as holding the 

hands of companions, 
I fled forth to the hiding receiving night that talks not, 
Down to the shores of the water, the path by the swamp in the 

To the solemn shadowy cedars and ghostly pines so still. 

And the singer so shy to the rest receiv'd me, 

The gray-brown bird I know receiv'd us comrades three. 

And he sang the carol of death, and a verse for him I love. 

From deep secluded recesses. 

From the fragrant cedars and the ghostly pines so still, 

Came the carol of the bird. 

And the charm of the carol rapt me. 

As I held as if by their hands my comrades in the night, 

And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird. 

Come lovely and soothing death, 

Undulate round the world, sejrnely aniving, arriving, 

In the day, i7i the night, to all, to each. 

Sooner or later delicate death. 

Praised be the fatho77iless uidverse, 

For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious, 
And for love, sweet love — but praise ! p7^aise I praise I 
For the sicre-enwinding arms of cool-enfoldiitg death. 

Dark mother always gliding near with soft feet, 
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome ? 
Then I chant it for thee, I glorify thee above all, 
I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come, come unfal- 

App7'oach strong deliveress. 

When it is so, when thotc hast taken them I joyously sing the dead, 

Lost in the loving floating ocean of thee, 

Laved in the flood of thy bliss O death. 

From me to thee glad serenades. 

Dances for thee I propose saluting thee, adornments and feast- 

ings for thee. 
And the sights of the open landscape and the high-spread sky are 

And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful night. 

Memories of President Lincoln, 261 

The night in silence unde7' many a sfar, 

The ocean shore a7td the husky zvhispering wave whose voice I 

And the soul turning to thee O vast and well-veiPd death, 
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee. 

Over the tree- tops I float thee a song, 

Over the rising and sinking waves, over the myriad fields a7id the 

prairies 7vide, 
Over the dense-pack' d cities all and the teemifig wharves and ways, 
I float this cai^ol with joy, with joy to thee O death, 


To the tally of my soul, 

Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird, 

With pure deliberate notes spreading filling the night. 

Loud in the pines and cedars dim. 

Clear in the freshness moist and the swamp-perfume, 

And I with my comrades there in the night. 

While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed, 
As to long panoramas of visions. 

And I saw askant the armies, 

I saw as in noiseless dreams hundreds of battle-flags, 

Borne through the smoke of the battles and pierc'd with missiles 

I saw them. 
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn and 

And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (and all in silence,) 
And the staffs all splinter'd and broken. 

I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them. 

And the white skeletons of young men, I saw them, 

I saw the debris and debris of all the slain soldiers of the war, 

But I saw they were not as was thought. 

They themselves were fully at rest, they suffer'd not. 

The living remain'd and suffer'd, the mother suffer'd. 

And the wife and the child and the musing comrade suffer'd, 

And the armies that remain'd suffer'd. 


Passing the visions, passing the night. 

Passing, unloosing the hold of my comrades' hands, 

262 Leaves of Grass, 

Passing the song of the hermit bird and the tallying song of my 

Victorious song, death's outlet song, yet varying ever-altering song, 
As low and waihng, yet clear the notes, rising and falhng, flooding 

the night, 
Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again 

bursting with joy, 
Covering the earth and filling the spread of the heaven, 
As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses, 
Passing, I leave thee lilac with heart-shaped leaves, 
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with 


I cease from my song for thee. 

From my gaze on thee in the west, fronting the west, communing 

with thee, 
O comrade lustrous with silver face in the night. 

Yet each to keep and all, retrievements out of the night, 

The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird, 

And the tallying chant, the echo arous'd in my soul. 

With the lustrous and drooping star with the countenance full 

of woe. 
With the holders holding my hand nearing the call of the bird, 
Comrades mine and I in the midst, and their memory ever to 

keep, for the dead I loved so well, 
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands — and this 

for his dear sake. 
Lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul. 
There in the fragrant pines and the cedars dusk and dim. 


O Captain ! my Captain ! our fearful trip is done. 
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won, 
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, 
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring ; 
But O heart 1 heart 1 heart ! 
O the bleeding drops of red, 

Where on the deck my Captain lies, 
Fallen cold and dead. 

O Captain ! my Captain ! rise up and hear the bells ; 

Rise up — for you the flag is flung — for you the bugle trills, 

Memories of President Lincoln. 263 

For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths — for you the shores 

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning ; 
Here Captain ! dear father ! 
This arm beneath your head ! 

It is some dream that on the deck, 
You've fallen cold and dead. 

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still, 
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will, 
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done. 
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won ; 
Exult O shores, and ring O bells ! 
But I with mournful tread, 

Walk the deck my Captain lies, 
Fallen cold and dead. 


{May 4, 1865.) 

Hush'd be the camps to-day. 
And soldiers let us drape our war-worn weapons. 
And each with musing soul retire to celebrate. 
Our dear commander's death. 

No more for him life's stormy conflicts, 

Nor victory, nor defeat — no more time's dark events; 

Charging like ceaseless clouds across the sky. 

But sing poet in our name. 

Sing of the love we bore him — because you, dweller in camps, 
know it truly. 

As they invault the coffin there. 

Sing — as they close the doors of earth upon him — one verse. 

For the heavy hearts of soldiers. 


This dust was once the man. 

Gentle, plain, just and resolute, under whose cautious hand. 
Against the foulest crime in history known in any land or age. 
Was saved the Union of these States. 

264 Leaves of Grass. 


By blue Ontario's shore, 

As I mused of these warHke days and of peace returned, and the 

dead that return no more, 
A Phantom gigantic superb, with stern visage accosted me. 
Chant me the poem, it said, that comes fro7n the soul of America, 

chant me the carol of victory, 
And strike up the 7?iarches of Liber tad, mai^ches 7nore powerful yet, 
And sing me before you go the so?ig of the throes of Democracy, 

(Democracy, the destin'd conqueror, yet treacherous Hp-smiles 

And death and infidehty at every step.) 

A Nation announcing itself, 

I myself make the only growth by which I can be appreciated, 
I reject none, accept all, then reproduce all in my own forms. 

A breed whose proof is in time and deeds. 

What we are we are, nativity is answer enough to objections, 

We wield ourselves as a weapon is wielded. 

We are powerful and tremendous in ourselves. 

We are executive in ourselves, we are sufficient in the variety of 

We are the most beautiful to ourselves and in ourselves. 
We stand self-pois'd in the middle, branching thence over the 

From Missouri, Nebraska, or Kansas, laughing attacks to scorn. 

Nothing is sinful to us outside of ourselves. 

Whatever appears, whatever does not appear, we are beautiful or 
sinful in ourselves only. 

(O Mother — O Sisters dear ! 

If we are lost, no victor else has destroyed us. 

It is by ourselves we go down to eternal night.) 


Have you thought there could be but a single supreme? 

There can be any number of supremes — one does not counter- 
vail another any more than one eyesight countervails 
another, or one life countervails another. 

By Blue Ontario's Shore. 265 

All is eligible to all, 

All is for individuals, all is for you. 

No condition is prohibited, not God's or any. 

All comes by the body, only health puts you rapport with the 

Produce great Persons, the rest follows. 

Piety and conformity to them that like, 

Peace, obesity, allegiance, to them that like, 

I am he who tauntingly compels men, women, nations, 

Crying, Leap from your seats and contend for your lives ! 

I am he who walks the States with a barb'd tongue, questioning 

every one I meet. 
Who are you that wanted only to be told what you knew before ? 
Who are you that wanted only a book to join you in your nonsense ? 

(With pangs and cries as thine own O bearer of many children, 
These clamors wild to a race of pride I give.) 

O lands, would you be freer than all that has ever been before ? 
If you would be freer than all that has been before, come listen 
to me. 

Fear grace, elegance, civilization, delicatesse. 
Fear the mellow sweet, the sucking of honey-juice, 
Beware the advancing mortal ripening of Nature, 
Beware what precedes the decay of the ruggedness of states and 

Ages, precedents, have long been accumulating undirected 

America brings builders, and brings its own styles. 

The immortal poets of Asia and Europe have done their work 

and pass'd to other spheres, 
A work remains, the work of surpassing all they have done. 

America, curious toward foreign characters, stands by its own at 
all hazards, 

266 Leaves of Grass. 

Stands removed, spacious, composite, sound, initiates the true 

use of precedents. 
Does not repel them or the past or what they have produced 

under their forms. 
Takes the lesson with calmness, perceives the corpse slowly borne 

from the house. 
Perceives that it waits a Httle while in the door, that it was fittest 

for its days, 
That its life has descended to the stalwart and well-shaped heir 

who approaches, 
And that he shall be fittest for his days. 

Any period one nation must lead. 

One land must be the promise and reliance of the future. 

These States are the amplest poem, 

Here is not merely a nation but a teeming Nation of nations. 

Here the doings of men correspond with the broadcast doings of 

the day and night. 
Here is what moves in magnificent masses careless of particulars, 
Here are the roughs, beards, friendliness, combativeness, the soul 

Here the flowing trains, here the crowds, equality, diversity, the 

soul loves. 

Land of lands and bards to corroborate ! 

Of them standing among them, one Hfts to the light a west-bred 

To him the hereditary countenance bequeath'd both mother's and 

His first parts substances, earth, water, animals, trees, 
Built of the common stock, having room for far and near. 
Used to dispense with other lands, incarnating this land, 
Attracting it body and soul to himself, hanging on its neck wich 

incomparable love, 
Plunging his seminal muscle into its merits and demerits. 
Making its cities, beginnings, events, diversities, wars, vocal in him, 
Making its rivers, lakes, bays, embouchure in him, 
Mississippi with yearly freshets and changing chutes, Columbia, 

Niagara, Hudson, spending themselves lovingly in him, 
If the Atlantic coast stretch or the Pacific coast stretch, he stretch- 
ing with them North or South, 
Spanning between them East and West, and touching whatever is 
between them, 

Bv Blue Ontario's Shore. 267 

Growths growing from him to offset the growths of pine, cedar, 
hemlock, Hve-oak, locust, chestnut, hickory, cottonwood, 
orange, magnolia. 

Tangles as tangled in him as any canebrake or swamp. 

He likening sides and peaks of mountains, forests coated with 
northern transparent ice, 

Off him pasturage sweet and natural as savanna, upland, prairie, 

Through him flights, whirls, screams, answering those of the iish- 
hawk, mocking-bird, night-heron, and eagle. 

His spirit surrounding his country's spirit, unclosed to good and 

Surrounding the essences of real things, old times and present 

Surrounding just found shores, islands, tribes of red aborigines. 

Weather-beaten vessels, landings, settlements, embryo stature and 

The haughty defiance of the Year One, war, peace, the formation 
of the Constitution, 

The separate States, the simple elastic scheme, the immigrants. 

The Union always swarming with blatherers and always sure and 

The unsurvey'd interior, log-houses, clearings, wild animals, hunt- 
ers, trappers. 

Surrounding the multiform agriculture, mines, temperature, the 
gestation of new States, 

Congress convening every Twelfth-month, the members duly 
coming up from the uttermost parts. 

Surrounding the noble character of mechanics and farmers, espe- 
cially the young men. 

Responding their manners, speech, dress, friendships, the gait they 
have of persons who never knew how it felt to stand in the 
presence of superiors. 

The freshness and candor of their physiognomy, the copiousness 
and decision of their phrenology. 

The picturesque looseness of their carriage, their fierceness when 

The fluency of their speech, their delight in music, their curiosity, 
good temper and open-handedness, the whole composite 

The prevailing ardor and enterprise, the large amativeness. 

The perfect equality of the female with the male, the fluid move- 
ment of the population, 

The superior marine, free commerce, fisheries, whaling, gold-dig- 

Wharf-hemm'd cities, railroad and steamboat lines intersecting all 

268 Leaves of Grass. 

Factories, mercantile life, labor-saving machinery, the Northeast, 

Northwest, Southwest, 
Manhattan firemen, the Yankee swap, southern plantation life. 
Slavery — the murderous, treacherous conspiracy to raise it upon 

the ruins of all the rest. 
On and on to the grapple with it — Assassin ! then your hfe or 

ours be the stake, and respite no more. 

(Lo, high toward heaven, this day, 

Libertad, from the conqueress' field return'd, 

I mark the new aureola around your head, 

No more of soft astral, but dazzling and fierce. 

With war's flames and the lambent lightnings playing, 

And your port immovable where you stand, 

With still the inextinguishable glance and the clinch'd and Hfted fist, 

And your foot on the neck of the menacing one, the scorner 

utterly crush'd beneath you. 
The menacing arrogant one that strode and advanced with his 

senseless scorn, bearing the murderous knife. 
The wide-swelling one, the braggart that would yesterday do so 

To-day a carrion dead and damn'd, the despised of all the earth, 
An offal rank, to the dunghill maggots spurn'd.) 

Others take finish, but the Republic is ever constructive and ever 

keeps vista. 
Others adorn the past, but you O days of the present, I adorn 

O days of the future I believe in you — I isolate myself for your 

O America because you build for mankind I build for you, 
O well-beloved stone-cutters, I lead them who plan with decision 

and science. 
Lead the present with friendly hand toward the future. 

(Bravas to all impulses sending sane children to the next age ! 
But damn that which spends itself with no thought of the stain, 
pains, dismay, feebleness, it is bequeathing.) 

I listened to the Phantom by Ontario's shore, 
I heard the voice arising demanding bards, 

By Blue Ontario's Shore. 269 

By them all native and grand, by them alone can these States be 
fused into the compact organism of a Nation. 

To hold men together by paper and seal or by compulsion is no 

That only holds men together which aggregates all in a living 

principle, as the hold of the limbs of the body or the fibres 

of plants. 

Of all races and eras these States with veins full of poetical stuff 
most need poets, and are to have the greatest, and use 
them the greatest, 

Their Presidents shall not be their common referee so much as 
their poets shall. 

(Soul of love and tongue of fire ! 
Eye to pierce the deepest deeps and sweep the world ! 
Ah Mother, prolific and full in all besides, yet how long barren, 
barren ?) 

Of these States the poet is the equable man. 

Not in him but off from him things are grotesque, eccentric, fail 

of their full returns. 
Nothing out of its place is good, nothing in its place is bad. 
He bestows on every object or quality its fit proportion, neither 

more nor less. 
He is the arbiter of the diverse, he is the key. 
He is the equalizer of his age and land. 

He supplies what wants supplying, he checks what wants checking. 
In peace out of him speaks the spirit of peace, large, rich, thrifty, 

building populous towns, encouraging agriculture, arts, 

commerce, lighting the study of man, the soul, health, 

immortality, government. 
In war he is the best backer of the war, he fetches artillery as good 

as the engineer's, he can make every word he speaks draw 

The years straying toward infidelity he withholds by his steady 

He is no arguer, he is judgment, (Nature accepts him absolutely,) 
He judges not as the judge judges but as the sun falling round a 

helpless thing, 
As he sees the farthest he has the most faith. 
His thoughts are the hymns of the praise of things, 
In the dispute on God and eternity he is silent, 

2/0 Leaves of Grass, 

He sees eternity less like a play with a prologue and denouement, 
He sees eternity in men and women, he does not see men and 
women as dreams or dots. 

For the great Idea, the idea of perfect and free individuals, 

For that, the bard walks in advance, leader of leaders. 

The attitude of him cheers up slaves and horrifies foreign despots. 

Without extinction is Liberty, without retrograde is Equality, 
They live in the feeHngs of young men and the best women, 
(Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the earth been 
always ready to fall for Liberty,) 


For the great Idea, 

That, O my brethren, that is the mission of poets. 

Songs of stern defiance ever ready, 

Songs of the rapid arming and the march. 

The flag of peace quick-folded, and instead the flag we know, 

Warlike flag of the great Idea. 

(Angry cloth I saw there leaping ! 

I stand again in leaden rain your flapping folds saluting, 

I sing you over all, flying beckoning through the fight — O the 

hard-contested fight ! 
The cannons ope their rosy-flashing muzzles — the hurtled balls 

The battle-front forms amid the smoke — the volleys pour incessant 

from the line. 
Hark, the ringing word Charge / — now the tussle and the furious 

maddening yells. 
Now the corpses tumble curl'd upon the ground, 
Cold, cold in death, for precious life of you, 
Angry cloth I saw there leaping.) 

Are you he who would assume a place to teach or be a poet here 

in the States? 
The place is august, the terms obdurate. 

Who would assume to teach here may well prepare himself body 
and mind. 

He may well survey, ponder, arm, fortify, harden, make lithe him- 

He shall surely be question'd beforehand by me with many and 
stern questions. 

Bv Blue Ontario's Shore. 271 

Who are you indeed who would talk or sing to America? 

Have you studied out the land, its idioms and men ? 

Have you learn'd the physiology, phrenology, politics, geography, 

pride, freedom, friendship of the land ? its substratums and 

Have you consider'd the organic compact of the first day of the 

first year of Independence, sign'd by the Commissioners, 

ratified by the States, and read by Washington at the head 

of the army? 
Have you possess'd yourself of the Federal Constitution ? 
Do you see who have left all feudal processes and poems behind 

them, and assumed the poems and processes of Democracy ? 
Are you faithful to things? do you teach what the land and sea, 

the bodies of men, womanhood, amativeness, heroic angers, 

teach ? 
Have you sped through fleeting customs, popularities ? 
Can you hold your hand against all seductions, follies, whirls, fierce 

contentions? are you very strong? are you really of the 

whole People? 
Are you not of some coterie? some school or mere religion? 
Are you done with reviews and criticisms of hfe ? animating now 

to Hfe itself ? 
Have you vivified yourself from the maternity of these States? 
Have you too the old ever-fresh forbearance and impartiality? 
Do you hold the like love for those hardening to maturity ? for the 

last-born ? little and big ? and for the errant ? 

What is this you bring my America? 

Is it uniform with my country? 

Is it not something that has been better told or done before ? 

Have you not imported this or the spirit of it in some ship ? 

Is it not a mere tale ? a rhyme ? a prettiness ? — is the good old 

cause in it? 
Has it not dangled long at the heels of the poets, politicians, 

Hterats, of enemies' lands? 
Does it not assume that what is notoriously gone is still here ? 
Does it answer universal needs ? will it improvQ manners ? 
Does it sound with trumpet-voice the proud victory of the Union 

in that secession war? 
Can your performance face the open fields and the seaside ? 
Will it absorb into me as I absorb food, air, to appear again in my 

strength, gait, face? 
Have real employments contributed to it? original makers, not 

mere amanuenses? 
Does it meet modern discoveries, calibres, facts, face to face ? 

2/2 Leaves of Grass, 

What does it mean to American persons, progresses, cities? Chi- 
cago, Kanada, Arkansas? 

Does it see behind the apparent custodians the real custodians 
standing, menacing, silent, the mechanics, Manhattanese, 
Western men, Southerners, significant alike in their apathy, 
and in the promptness of their love ? 

Does it see what finally befalls, and has always finally befallen, each 
temporizer, patcher, outsider, partialist, alarmist, infidel, 
who has ever ask'd any thing of America? 

What mocking and scornful neghgence ? 

The track strew'd with the dust of skeletons, ^ 

By the roadside others disdainfully toss'd. 

/ 13 

Rhymes and rhymers pass away, poems distilFd from poems pass 

The swarms of reflectors and the polite pass, and leave ashes. 

Admirers, importers, obedient persons, make but the soil of litera- 

America justifies itself, give it time, no disguise can deceive it or 
conceal from it, it is impassive enough. 

Only toward the likes of itself will it advance to meet them. 

If its poets appear it will in due time advance to meet them, 
there is no fear of mistake, 

(The proof of a poet shall be sternly deferred till his country 
absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.) 

He masters whose spirit masters, he tastes sweetest who results 
sweetest in the long run. 

The blood of the brawn beloved of time is unconstraint ; 

In the need of songs, philosophy, an appropriate native grand- 
opera, shipcraft, any craft, 

He or she is greatest who contributes the greatest original prac- 
tical example. 

Already a nonchalant breed, silently emerging, appears on the 

People's lips salute only doers, lovers, satisfiers, positive knowers, 

There will shortly be no more priests, I say their work is done, 

Death is without emergencies here, but life is perpetual emer- 
gencies here. 

Are your body, days, manners, superb? after death you shall be 

Justice, health, self-esteem, clear the way with irresistible power ; 

How dare you place any thing before a man? 

By Blue Ontario's Shore, 273 

Fall behind me States ! 
A man before all — myself, typical, before all. 

Give me the pay I have served for, 

Give me to sing the songs of the great Idea, take all the rest, 

I have loved the earth, sun, animals, I have despised riches, 

I have given alms to every one that ask'd, stood up for the stupid 

and crazy, devoted my income and labor to others. 
Hated tyrants, argued not concerning God, had patience and 

indulgence toward the people, taken off my hat to nothing 

known or unknown. 
Gone freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young, 

and with the mothers of famihes. 
Read these leaves to myself in the open air, tried them by trees, 

stars, rivers, 
Dismiss'd whatever insulted my own soul or defiled my body, 
Claim'd nothing to myself which I have not carefully claim'd for 

others on the same terms. 
Sped to the camps, and comrades found and accepted from every 

(Upon this breast has many a dying soldier lean'd to breathe his 

This arm, this hand, this voice, have nourished, raised, restored, 
To life recalling many a prostrate form ;) 
I am willing to wait to be understood by the growth of the taste 

of myself. 
Rejecting none, permitting all. 

(Say O Mother, have I not to your thought been faithful? 
Have I not through life kept you and yours before me ?) 

I swear I begin to see the meaning of these things. 

It is not the earth, it is not America who is so great. 

It is I who am great or to be great, it is You up there, or any one, 

It is to walk rapidly through civilizations, governments, theories, 

Through poems, pageants, shows, to form individuals. 

Underneath all, individuals, 

I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores individuals, 
The American compact is altogether with individuals, 
The only government is that which makes minute of individuals, 
The whole theory of the universe is directed unerringly to one 
single individual — namely to You. 

2/4 Leaves of Grass. 

(Mother ! with subtle sense severe, with the naked sword in your 

I saw you at last refuse to treat but directly with individuals.) 


Underneath all, Nativity, 

I swear I will stand by my own nativity, pious or impious so be it ; 

I swear I am charm'd with nothing except nativity, 

Men, women, cities, nations, are only beautiful from nativity. 

Underneath all is the Expression of love for men and women, 
(I swear I have seen enough of mean and impotent modes of 

expressing love for men and women, 
After this day I take my own modes of expressing love for men 

and women.) 

I swear I will have each quality of my race in myself, 
(Talk as you like, he only suits these States whose manners favor 
the audacity and sublime turbulence of the States.) 

Underneath the lessons of things, spirits. Nature, governments, 
ownerships, I swear I perceive other lessons. 

Underneath all to me is myself, to you yourself, (the same monoto- 
nous old song.) 

I see flashing that this America is only you and me, 
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me, 

Its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, are you and me, 

Its Congress is you and me, the officers, capitols, armies, ships, are 

you and me, 
Its endless gestations of new States are you and me. 
The war, (that war so bloody and grim, the war I will henceforth 

forget), was you and me. 
Natural and artificial are you and me. 
Freedom, language, poems, employments, are you and me, 
Past, present, future, are you and me. 

1 dare not shirk any part of myself. 
Not any part of America good or bad. 

Not to build for that which builds for mankind. 

Not to balance ranks, complexions, creeds, and the sexes. 

Not to justify science nor the march of equaUty, 

Nor to feed the arrogant blood of the brawn beloved of time. 

By Blue Ontario's Shore. ^7S 

I am for those that have never been mastered, 

For men and women whose tempers have never been master'd, 

For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can never master. 

I am for those who walk abreast with the whole earth, 
Who inaugurate one to inaugurate all. 

I will not be outfaced by irrational things, 
I will penetrate what it is in them that is sarcastic upon me, 
I will make cities and civilizations defer to me, 
This is what I have learnt from America — it is the amount, and it 
I teach again. 

(Democracy, while weapons were everywhere aim'd at your breast, 
I saw you serenely give birth to immortal children, saw in dreams 

your dilating form. 
Saw you with spreading mantle covering the world.) 

I will confront these shows of the day and night, 

I will know if I am to be less than they, 

I will see if I am not as majestic as they, 

I will see if I am not as subtle and real as they, 

I will see if I am to be less generous than they, 

I will see if I have no meaning, while the houses ^nd ships have 

I will see if the fishes and birds are to be enough for themselves, 

and I am not to be enough for myself. 

I match my spirit against yours you orbs, growths, mountains, 

Copious as you are I absorb you all in myself, and become the 

master myself, 
America isolated yet embodying all, what is it finally except 

myself ? 
These States, what are they except myself ? 

I know now why the earth is gross, tantahzing, wicked, it is for my 

I take you specially to be mine, you terrible, rude forms. 

(Mother, bend down, bend close to me your face, 
I know not what these plots and wars and deferments are for, 
I know not fruition's success, but I know that through war and 
crime your work goes on, and must yet go on.) 

2/6 Leaves of Grass. 

Thus by blue Ontario's shore, 

While the winds fann'd me and the waves came trooping toward 

I thriird with the power's pulsations, and the charm of my theme 

was upon me, 
Till the tissues that held me parted their ties upon me. 

And I saw the free souls of poets. 
The loftiest bards of past ages strode before me. 
Strange large men, long unwaked, undisclosed, were disclosed to 

O my rapt verse, my call, mock me not ! 

Not for the bards of the past, not to invoke them have I launch'd 

you forth, 
Not to call even those lofty bards here by Ontario's shores, 
Have I sung so capricious and loud my savage song. 

Bards for my own land only I invoke, 

(For the war the war is over, the field is clear'd,) 

Till they strike up marches henceforth triumphant and onward, 

To cheer O Mother your boundless expectant soul. 

Bards of the great Idea ! bards of the peaceful inventions ! (for 

the war, the war is over !) 
Yet bards of latent armies, a million soldiers waiting ever-ready. 
Bards with songs as from burning coals or the lightning's fork'd 

stripes ! 
Ample Ohio's, Kanada's bards — bards of Cahfornia ! inland 

bards — bards of the war ! 
You by my charm I invoke. 


Let that which stood in front go behind, 

Let that which was behind advance to the front. 

Let bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new propositions, 

Let the old propositions be postponed. 

Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself, 

Let a woman seek happiness everywhere except in herself. 

Autumn Rivulets, 2*jy 



As consequent from store of summer rains, 
Or wayward rivulets in autumn flowing, 
Or many a herb-lined brook's reticulations. 
Or subterranean sea-rills making for the sea, 
Songs of continued years I sing. 

Life's ever-modern rapids first, (soon, soon to blend, 
With the old streams of death.) 

Some threading Ohio's farm-fields or the woods. 
Some down Colorado's canons from sources of perpetual snow, 
Some half-hid in Oregon, or away southward in Texas, 
Some in the north finding their way to Erie, Niagara, Ottawa, 
Some to Atlantica's bays, and so to the great salt brine. 

In you whoe'er you are my book perusing, 

In I myself, in all the world, these currents flowing, 

All, all toward the mystic ocean tending. 

Currents for starting a continent new. 

Overtures sent to the soHd out of the liquid, 

Fusion of ocean and land, tender and pensive waves, 

(Not safe and peaceful only, waves rous'd and ominous too, 

Out of the depths the storm's abysmic waves, who knows whence ? 

Raging over the vast, with many a broken spar and tatter'd sail.) 

Or from the sea of Time, collecting vasting all, I bring, 
A windrow- drift of weeds and shells. 

O little shells, so curious-convolute, so limpid-cold and voiceless, 
Will you not little shells to the tympans of temples held. 
Murmurs and echoes still call up, eternity's music faint and far. 
Wafted inland, sent from Atlantica's rim, strains for the soul of the 

Whisper'd reverberations, chords for the ear of the West joyously 

Your tidings old, yet ever new and untranslatable, 
Infinitesimals out of my life, and many a life. 

2/8 Leaves of Grass. 

(For not my life and years alone I give — all, all I give,) 
These waifs from the deep, cast high and dry, 
Wash'd on America's shores? 


For the lands and for these passionate days and for myself, 
Now I awhile retire to thee O soil of autumn fields. 
Reclining on thy breast, giving myself to thee, 
Answering the pulses of thy sane and equable heart, 
Tuning a verse for thee. 

O earth that hast no voice, confide to me a voice, 

O harvest of my lands — O boundless summer growths, 

O lavish brown parturient earth — O infinite teeming womb, 

A song to narrate thee. 

Ever upon this stage. 

Is acted God's calm annual drama, 

Gorgeous processions, songs of birds. 

Sunrise that fullest feeds and freshens most the soul. 

The heaving sea, the waves upon the shore, the musical, strong 

The woods, the stalwart trees, the slender, tapering trees, 
The liliput countless armies of the grass. 
The heat, the showers, the measureless pasturages. 
The scenery of the snows, the winds' free orchestra. 
The stretching light-hung roof of clouds, the clear cerulean and 

the silvery fringes. 
The high dilating stars, the placid beckoning stars, 
The moving flocks and herds, the plains and emerald meadows. 
The shows of all the varied lands and all the growths and products. 

Fecund America — to-day. 

Thou art all over set in births and joys ! 

Thou groan'st with riches, thy wealth clothes thee as a swathing- 

Thou laughest loud with ache of great possessions, 
A myriad-twining life Hke interlacing vines binds all thy vast 


Autumn Rivulets, 279 

As some huge ship freighted to water's edge thou ridest into 

As rain falls from the heaven and vapors rise from earth, so have 

the precious values fallen upon thee and risen out of thee ; 
Thou envy of the globe ! thou miracle ! 
Thou, bathed, choked, swimming in plenty, 
Thou lucky Mistress of the tranquil barns. 
Thou Prairie Dame that sittest in the middle and lookest out upon 

thy world, and lookest East and lookest West, 
Dispensatress, that by a word givest a thousand miles, a milhon 

farms, and missest nothing. 
Thou all-acceptress — thou hospitable, (thou only art hospitable as 

God is hospitable.) 

When late I sang sad was my voice, 

Sad were the shows around me with deafening noises of hatred 

and smoke of war ; 
In the midst of the conflict, the heroes, I stood. 
Or pass'd with slow step through the wounded and dying. 

But now I sing not war. 

Nor the measur'd march of soldiers, nor the tents of camps, 
Nor the regiments hastily coming up deploying in line of battle ; 
No more the sad, unnatural shows of war. 

Ask'd room those flush'd immortal ranks, the first forth- stepping 

armies ? 
Ask room alas the ghastly ranks, the armies dread that follow'd. 

(Pass, pass, ye proud brigades, with your tramping sinewy legs, 
With your shoulders young and strong, with your knapsacks and 

your muskets ; 
How elate I stood and watch'd you, where starting off yci 


Pass — then rattle drums again, 

For an army heaves in sight, O another gathering army, 

Swarming, trailing on the rear, O you dread accruing army, 

O you regiments so piteous, with your mortal diarrhoea, with your 

O my land's maim'd dariings, with the plenteous bloody bandage 

and the crutch, 
Lo, your pallid army follows.) 

28o Leaves of Grass. 

But on these days of brightness, 

On the far-stretching beauteous landscape, the roads and lanes, 

the high-piled farm-wagons, and the fruits and barns, 
Should the dead intrude ? 

Ah the dead to me mar not, they fit well in Nature, 

They fit very well in the landscape under the trees and grass, 

And along the edge of the sky in the horizon's far margin. 

Nor do I forget you Departed, 

Nor in winter or summer my lost ones, 

But most in the open air as now when my soul is rapt and at 

peace, like pleasing phantoms, 
Your memories rising ghde silently by me. 

I saw the day the return of the heroes, 

(Yet the heroes never surpass'd shall never return, 

Them that day I saw not.) 

I saw the interminable corps, I saw the processions of armies, 
I saw them approaching, defihng by with divisions. 
Streaming northward, their work done, camping awhile in clusters 
of mighty camps. 

No holiday soldiers — youthful, yet veterans. 

Worn, swart, handsome, strong, of the stock of homestead and 

Hardened of many a long campaign and sweaty march, 
Inured on many a hard-fought bloody field. 

A pause — the armies wait, 

A million flush'd embattled conquerors wait. 

The world too waits, then soft as breaking night and sure as dawn, 

They melt, they disappear. 

Exult O lands ! victorious lands ! 

Not there your victory on those red shuddering fields. 

But here and hence your victory. 

Melt, melt away ye armies — disperse ye blue-clad soldiers, 
Resolve ye back again, give up for good your deadly arms, 
Other the arms the fields henceforth for you, or South or North, 
With saner wars, sweet wars, life-giving wars. 

Autumn Rivulets, 281 

Loud O my throat, and clear O soul ! 

The' season of thanks and the voice of full-yielding, 

llie chant of joy and power for boundless fertihty. 

All tiird and untill'd fields expand before me, 
I see the true arenas of my race, or first or last, 
Man's innocent and strong arenas. 

I see the heroes at other toils, 

I see well-wielded in their hands the better weapons. 

I see where the Mother of All, 

With full-spanning eye gazes forth, dwells long, 

And counts the varied gathering of the products. 

Busy the far, the sunlit panorama, 
Prairie, orchard, and yellow grain of the North, 
Cotton and rice of the South and Louisianian cane, 
Open unseeded fallows, rich fields of clover and timothy, 
Kine and horses feeding, and droves of sheep and swine. 
And many a stately river flowing and many a jocund brook. 
And healthy uplands with herby-perfumed breezes. 
And the good green grass, that delicate miracle the ever-recurring 

Toil on heroes ! harvest the products ! 

Not alone on those warlike fields the Mother of All, 

With dilated form and lambent eyes watch'd you. 

Toil on heroes ! toil well ! handle the weapons well ! 
The Mother of All, yet here as ever she watches you. 

Well-pleased America thou beholdest. 

Over the fields of the West those crawHng monsters. 

The human-divine inventions, the labor-saving implements ; 

Beholdest moving in every direction imbued as with life the 

revolving hay-rakes. 
The steam-power reaping-machines and the horse-power machines. 
The engines, thrashers of grain and cleaners of grain, well sepa- 
rating the straw, the nimble work of the patent pitchfork, 
Beholdest the newer saw-mill, the southern cotton-gin, and the 

282 Leaves of Grass, 

Beneath thy look O Maternal, 

With these and else and with their own strong hands the heroes 

All gather and all harvest, 

Yet but for thee O Powerful, not a scythe might swing as now in 

Not a maize-stalk dangle as now its silken tassels in peace. 

Under thee only they harvest, even but a wisp of hay under thy 

great face only. 
Harvest the wheat of Ohio, Ilhnois, Wisconsin, every barbed spear 

under thee. 
Harvest the maize of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, each ear in 

its light-green sheath. 
Gather the hay to its myriad mows in the odorous tranquil barns, 
Oats to their bins, the white potato, the buckwheat of Michigan, 

to theirs ; 
Gather the cotton in Mississippi or Alabama, dig and hoard the 

golden the sweet potato of Georgia and the Carohnas, 
Clip the wool of Cahfornia or Pennsylvania, 
Cut the flax in the Middle States, or hemp or tobacco in the 

Pick the pea and the bean, or pull apples from the trees or bunches 

of grapes from the vines, 
Or aught that ripens in all these States or North or South, 
Under the beaming sun and under thee. 


There was a child went forth every day, 

And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became. 

And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part 

of the day, 
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years. 

The early lilacs became part of this child, 

And grass and white and red morning-glories, and white and red 
clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird. 

And the Third-month lambs and the sow's pink-faint litter, and 
the mare's foal and the cow's calf, 

And the noisy brood of the barnyard or by the mire of the pond- 

Autumn Rivulets. 283 

And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there, and 

the beautiful curious liquid, 
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads, all became part 

of him. 

The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part 

of him, 
Winter-grain sprouts and those of the light-yellow corn, and the 

esculent roots of the garden, 
And the apple-trees cover'd with blossoms and the fruit afterward, 

and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road. 
And the old drunkard staggering home from the outhouse of the 

tavern whence he had lately risen, 
And the schoolmistress that pass'd on her way to the school. 
And the friendly boys that pass'd, and the quarrelsome boys. 
And the tidy and fresh-cheek'd girls, and the barefoot negro boy 

and girl. 
And all the changes of city and country wherever he went. 

His own parents, he that had father'd him and she that had con- 

ceiv'd him in her womb and birth'd him, 
They gave this child more of themselves than that, 
They gave him afterward every day, they became part of him. 

The mother at home quietly placing the dishes on the supper- 

The mother with mild words, clean her cap and gown, a whole- 
some odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by, 

The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger'd, unjust, 

The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure. 

The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture, the 
yearning and swelHng heart. 

Affection that will not be gainsay'd, the sense of what is real, the 
thought if after all it should prove unreal. 

The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time, the curious 
whether and how. 

Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks ? 

Men and women crowding fast in the streets, if they are not flashes 
and specks what are they? 

The streets themselves and the facades of houses, and goods in 
the windows, 

Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank'd wharves, the huge crossing at 
the ferries. 

The village on the highland seen from afar at sunset, the river 

284 Leaves of Grass. 

Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and gables of 

white or brown two miles off, 
The schooner near by sleepily dropping down the tide, the little 

boat slack-tow'd astern. 
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping, 
The strata of color'd clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint away 

solitary by itself, the spread of purity it lies motionless in, 
The horizon's edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt 

marsh and shore mud. 
These became part of that child who went forth every day, and 

who now goes, and will always go forth every day. 


Far hence amid an isle of wondrous beauty, 

Crouching over a grave an ancient sorrowful mother, 

Once a queen, now lean and tatter'd seated on the ground, 

Her old white hair drooping dishevel'd round her shoulders, 

At her feet fallen an unused royal harp, 

Long silent, she too long silent, mourning her shrouded hope and 

Of all the earth her heart most full of sorrow because most full of 


Yet a word ancient mother. 

You need crouch there no longer on the cold ground with fore- 
head between your knees, 
O you need not sit there veil'd in your old white hair so dishevel'd. 
For know you the one you mourn is not in that grave. 
It was an illusion, the son you love was not really dead, 
The Lord is not dead, he is risen again young and strong in 

another country. 
Even while you wept there by your fallen harp by the grave. 
What you wept for was translated, pass'd from the grave. 
The winds favor'd and the sea sail'd it, 
And now with rosy and new blood, 
Moves to-day in a new country. 


By the city dead-house by the gate. 
As idly sauntering wending my way from the clangor, 
I curious pause, for lo, an outcast form, a poor dead prostitute 


Her corpse they deposit unclaim'd, it lies on the damp brick 

The divine woman, her body, I see the body, I look on it alone, 
That house once full of passion and beauty, all else I notice not. 
Nor stillness so cold, nor running water from faucet, nor odors 

morbific impress me, 
But the house alone — that wondrous house — that delicate fair 

house — that ruin ! 
That immortal house more than all the rows of dwellings ever 

built ! 
Or white-domed capitol with majestic figure surmounted, or all 

the old high-spired cathedrals. 
That Httle house alone more than them all — poor, desperate 

house ! 
Fair, fearful wreck — tenement of a soul — itself a soul, 
Unclaim'd, avoided house — take one breath from my tremulous 

Take one tear dropt aside as I go for thought of you, 
Dead house of love — house of madness and sin, crumbled, 

House of life, erewhile talking and laughing — but ah, poor house, 

dead even then, 
Months, years, an echoing, garnish'd house — but dead, dead, 



Something startles me where I thought I was safest, 

I withdraw from the still woods I loved, 

I will not go now on the pastures to walk, 

I will not strip the clothes from my body to meet my lover the sea, 

I will not touch my flesh to the earth as to other flesh to renew me. 

O how can it be that the ground itself does not sicken? 

How can you be alive you growths of spring? 

How can you furnish health you blood of herbs, roots, orchards, 

grain ? 
Are they not continually putting distempered corpses within you? 
Is not every continent work'd over and over with sour dead ? 

Where have you disposed of their carcasses ? 

Those drunkards and gluttons of so many generations? 

286 Leaves of Grass. 

Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and meat ? 

I do not see any of it upon you to-day, or perhaps I am deceiv'd, 

I will run a furrow with my plough, I will press my spade through 

the sod and turn it up underneath, 
I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat. 

Behold this compost ! behold it well ! 

Perhaps every mite has once form'd part of a sick person — yet 

behold ! 
The grass of spring covers the prairies, 

The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in the garden, 
The dehcate spear of the onion pierces upward, 
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches, 
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage out of its 

The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mulberry-tree. 
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings while the she-birds sit 

on their nests, 
The young of poultry break through the hatch'd eggs, 
The new-born of animals appear, the calf is dropt from the cow, 

the colt from the mare. 
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato's dark green leaves. 
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk, the lilacs bloom in the 

The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above all those 

strata of sour dead. 

What chemistry ! 

That the winds are really not infectious. 

That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash of the sea 

which is so amorous after me, 
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all over with its 

That it will not endanger me with the fevers that have deposited 

themselves in it. 
That all is clean forever and forever. 
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good, 
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy. 
That the fruits of the apple-orchard and the orange-orchard, that 

melons, grapes, peaches, plums, will none of them poison me, 
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any disease, 
Though probably every spear of grass rises out of what was once 

a catching disease. 


Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm and patient, 

It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions, 

It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless 

successions of diseas'd corpses. 
It distills such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor. 
It renews with such unwitting looks its prodigal, annual, sumptu- 
ous crops. 
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings 
from them at last. 


Courage yet, my brother or my sister ! 

Keep on — Liberty is to be subserv'd whatever occurs ; 

That is nothing that is quell'd by one or two failures, or any num- 
ber of failures. 

Or by the indifference or ingratitude of the people, or by any 

Or the show of the tushes of power, soldiers, cannon, penal statutes. 

What we believe in waits latent forever through all the continents. 
Invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and light, is 

positive and composed, knows no discouragement, 
Waiting patiently, waiting its time. 

(Not songs of loyalty alone are these, 

But songs of insurrection also. 

For I am the sworn poet of every daundess rebel the world over, 

And he going with me leaves peace and routine behind him, 

And stakes his Hfe to be lost at any moment.) 

The battle rages with many a loud alarm and frequent advance 
and retreat, 

The infidel triumphs, or supposes he triumphs. 

The prison, scaffold, garrote, handcuffs, iron necklace and lead- 
balls do their work, 

The named and unnamed heroes pass to other spheres. 

The great speakers and writers are exiled, they He sick in distant 

The cause is asleep, the strongest throats are choked with their 
own blood. 

The young men droop their eyelashes toward the ground when 
they meet ; 

But for all this Liberty has not gone out of the place, nor the 
infidel enter'd into full possession. 

288 Leaves of Grass. 

When liberty goes out of a place it is not the first to go, nor the 

second or third to go, 
It waits for all the rest to go, it is the last. 

When there are no more memories of heroes and martyrs, 

And when all life and all the souls of men and women are dis- 
charged from any part of the earth. 

Then only shall liberty or the idea of hberty be discharged from 
that part of the earth, 

And the infidel come into full possession. 

Then courage European revolter, revoltress ! 
For till all ceases neither must you cease. 

I do not know what you are for, (I do not know what I am for 

myself, nor what any thing is for,) 
But I will search carefully for it even in being foil'd. 
In defeat, poverty, misconception, imprisonment — for they too 

are great. 

Did we think victory great ? 

So it is — but now it seems to me, when it cannot be helped, that 

defeat is great, 
And that death and dismay are great. 


Nations ten thousand years before these States, and many times 

ten thousand years before these States, 
Garner'd clusters of ages that men and women like us grew up and 

travel'd their course and pass'd on, 
What vast-built cities, what orderly repubHcs, what pastoral tribes 

and nomads, 
What histories, rulers, heroes, perhaps transcending all others. 
What laws, customs, wealth, arts, traditions, 
What sort of marriage, what costumes, what physiology and 

What of liberty and slavery among them, what they thought of 

death and the soul. 
Who were witty and wise, who beautiful and poetic, who brutish 

and undeveloped, 
Not a mark, not a record remains — and yet all remains. 

O I know that those men and women were not for nothing, any 
more than we are for nothing, 

Autumn Rivulets. 289 

I know that they belong to the scheme of the world every bit as 
much as we now belong to it. 

Afar they stand, yet near to me they stand, 

Som.e with oval countenances learn 'd and calm. 

Some naked and savage, some like huge collections of insects. 

Some in tents, herdsmen, patriarchs, tribes, horsemen, 

Some prowling through woods, some living peaceably on farms, 

laboring, reaping, fiUing barns. 
Some traversing paved avenues, amid temples, palaces, factories, 

Hbraries, shows, courts, theatres, wonderful monuments. 

Are those bilHons of men really gone ? 

Are those women of the old experience of the earth gone ? 

Do their lives, cities, arts, rest only with us ? 

Did they achieve nothing for good for themselves ? 

I believe of all those men and women that fill'd the unnamed 
lands, every one exists this hour here or elsewhere, invisible 
to us. 

In exact proportion to what he or she grew from in life, and out 
of what he or she did, felt, became, loved, sinn'd, in life. 

I believe that was not the end of those nations or any person of 

them, any more than this shall be the end of my nation, or 

of me ; 
Of their languages, governments, marriage, literature, products, 

games, wars, manners, crimes, prisons, slaves, heroes, poets, 
I suspect their results curiously await in the yet unseen world, 

counterparts of what accrued to them in the seen world, 
I suspect I shall meet them there, 
I suspect I shall there find each old particular of those unnamed 



Manhattan's streets I saunter'd pondering, 

On Time, Space, Reality — on such as these, and abreast with 
them Prudence. 

The last explanation always remains to be made about prudence, 
Litde and large alike drop quietly aside from the prudence that 
suits immortality. 

The soul is of itself, 

All verges to it, all has reference to what ensues, 

290 Leaves of Grass. 

All that a person does, says, thinks, is of consequence. 

Not a move can a man or woman make, that affects him or her in 

a day, month, any part of the direct lifetime, or the hour 

of death. 
But the same affects him or her onward afterward through the 

indirect hfetime. 

The indirect is just as much as the direct, 

The spirit receives from the body just as much as it gives to the 
body, if not more. 

Not one word or deed, not venereal sore, discoloration, privacy 

of the onanist. 
Putridity of gluttons or rum-drinkers, peculation, cunning, betrayal, 

murder, seduction, prostitution. 
But has results beyond death as really as before death. 

Charity and personal force are the only investments worth any 

No specification is necessary, all that a male or female does, that is 
vigorous, benevolent, clean, is so much profit to him or her. 

In the unshakable order of the universe and through the whole 
scope of it forever. • 

Who has been wise receives interest, 

Savage, felon. President, judge, farmer, sailor, mechanic, literat, 

young, old, it is the same. 
The interest will come round — all will come round. 

Singly, wholly, to affect now, affected their time, will forever affect, 

all of the past and all of the present and all of the future. 
All the brave actions of war and peace. 
All help given to relatives, strangers, the poor, old, sorrowful, young 

children, widows, the sick, and to shunn'd persons. 
All self-denial that stood steady and aloof on wrecks, and saw 

others fill the seats of the boats. 
All offering of substance or life for the good old cause, or for a 

friend's sake, or opinion's sake. 
All pains of enthusiasts scoff'd at by their neighbors. 
All the limitless sweet love and precious suffering of mothers. 
All honest men baffled in strifes recorded or unrecorded. 
All the grandeur and good of ancient nations whose fragments we 

All the good of the dozens of ancient nations unknown to us by 

name, date, location. 

A UTUMN Rivulets. 29 1 

All that was ever manfully begun, whether it succeeded or no, 
All suggestions of the divine mind of man or the divinity of his 

mouth, or the shaping of his great hands, 
All that is well thought or said this day on any part of the globe, 

or on any of the wandering stars, or on any of the fix'd 

stars, by those there as we are here, 
All that is henceforth to be thought or done by you whoever you 

are, or by any one. 
These inure, have inured, shall inure, to the identities from which 

they sprang, or shall spring. 

Did you guess any thing lived only its moment ? 

The world does not so exist, no parts palpable or impalpable so 

No consummation exists without being from some long previous 

consummation, and that from some other. 
Without the farthest conceivable one coming a bit nearer the 

beginning than any. 

Whatever satisfies souls is true ; 

Prudence entirely satisfies the craving and glut of souls, 
Itself only finally satisfies the soul. 

The soul has that measureless pride which revolts from every lesson 
but its own. 

Now I breathe the word of the prudence that walks abreast with 

time, space, reality. 
That answers the pride which refuses every lesson but its own. 

What is prudence is indivisible, 

DecHnes to separate one part of life from every part. 

Divides not the righteous from the unrighteous or the Hving from 

the dead. 
Matches every thought or act by its correlative. 
Knows no possible forgiveness or deputed atonement. 
Knows that the young man who composedly peril'd his life and 

lost it has done exceedingly well for himself without doubt. 
That he who never peril'd his life, but retains it to old age in 

riches and ease, has probably achiev'd nothing for himself 

worth mentioning, 
Knows that only that person has really learn'd who has learn'd to 

prefer results, 
Who favors body and soul the same. 
Who perceives the indirect assuredly following the direct. 
Who in his spirit in any emergency whatever neither hurries ngr 

avoids death. ' 

292 Leaves of Grass. 


O sight of pity, shame and dole I 
O feaiful thoicght — a convict soul. 

Rang the refrain along the hall, the prison, 

Rose to the roof, the vaults of heaven above, 

Pouring in floods of melody in tones so pensive sweet and strong 

the like whereof was never heard. 
Reaching the far-off sentry and the armed guards, who ceas'd their 

Making the hearer's pulses stop for ecstasy and awe. 

The sun was low in the west one winter day. 

When down a narrow aisle amid the thieves and outlaws of the 

(There by the hundreds seated, sear-faced murderers, wily counter- 
Gathered to Sunday church in prison walls, the keepers round, 
Plenteous, well-armed, watching with vigilant eyes,) 
Calmly a lady walk'd holding a little innocent child by either 

Whom seating on their stools beside her on the platform, 
She, first preluding with the instrument a low and musical prelude, 
In voice surpassing all, sang forth a quaint old hymn. 

A soul confined by bars and bands. 
Cries, help I O help ! and wrings her hands, 
Blinded her eyes, bleeding her breast, 
Nor pardon finds, nor balm of rest. 

Ceaseless she paces to and fro, 
O heart-sick days ! O nights of woe ! 
Nor hand of friend, nor loving face, 
Nor favor comes, nor word of grace. 

It was not I that sinn'd the sin. 
The ruthless body dragg'd me in ; 
Though long I strove courageously. 
The body was too much for me. 

Dear prison'd soul bear up a space, 
for soon or late the certain grace ; 

Autumn Rivulets. 293 

To set thee free and bear thee home, 
The heavenly pardoner death shall come. 

Convict no mo7^e^ no7^ shame, nor dole I 
Depart — - a God-enfrandiis^ d soul ! 


The singer ceas'd, 

One glance swept from her clear calm eyes o'er all those upturn'd 

Strange sea of prison faces, a thousand varied, crafty, brutal, 

seam'd and beauteous faces. 
Then rising, passing back along the narrow aisle between them. 
While her gown touch'd them rustling in the silence, 
She vanish'd with her children in the dusk. 

While upon all, convicts and armed keepers ere they stirr'd, 

(Convict forgetting prison, keeper his loaded pistol,) 

A hush and pause fell down a wondrous minute. 

With deep half-stifled sobs and sound of bad men bow'd and 

moved to weeping. 
And youth's convulsive breathings, memories of home. 
The mother's voice in lullaby, this sister's care, the happy childhood. 
The long-pent spirit rous'd to reminiscence ; 
A wondrous minute then — but after in the solitary night, to many, 

many there. 
Years after, even in the hour of death, the sad refrain, the tune, 

the voice, the words. 
Resumed, the large calm lady walks the narrow aisle, 
The waiHng melody again, the singer in the prison sings, 

O sight of pity, shame and dole I 
O fearful thought — a convict souL 


Warble me now for joy of lilac-time, (returning in reminiscence,) 
Sort me O tongue and lips for Nature's sake, souvenirs of earliest 

Gather the welcome signs, (as children with pebbles or stringing 

Put in April and May, the hylas croaking in the ponds, the elastic 

Bees, butterflies, the sparrow with its simple notes, 

294 Leaves of Grass. 

Blue-bird and darting swallow, nor forget the high-hole flashing 

his golden wings, 
The tranquil sunny haze, the clinging smoke, the vapor. 
Shimmer of waters with fish in them, the cerulean above, 
All that is jocund and sparkHng, the brooks running. 
The maple woods, the crisp February days and the sugar-making. 
The robin where he hops, bright-eyed, brown-breasted. 
With musical clear call at sunrise, and again at sunset. 
Or flitting among the trees of the apple-orchard, building the nest 

of his mate. 
The melted snow of March, the willow sending forth its yellow- 
green sprouts. 
For spring-time is here ! the summer is here ! and what is this 

in it and from it? 
Thou, soul, unloosen'd — the restlessness after I know not what ; 
Come, let us lag here no longer, let us be up and away ! 
O if one could but fly like a bird ! 
O to escape, to sail forth as in a ship ! 

To glide with thee O soul, o'er all, in all, as a ship o'er the waters ; 
Gathering these hints, the preludes, the blue sky, the grass, the 

morning drops of dew. 
The lilac-scent, the bushes with dark green heart-shaped leaves, 
Wood-violets, the little delicate pale blossoms called innocence. 
Samples and sorts not for themselves alone, but for their atmos- 
To grace the bush I love — to sing with the birds, 
A warble for joy of lilac-time, returning in reminiscence. 

(G. P., Buried 1870.) 

What may we chant, O thou within this tomb ? 

What tablets, outlines, hang for thee, O millionnaire ? 

The life thou lived'st we know not. 

But that thou walk'dst thy years in barter, 'mid the haunts of 

Nor heroism thine, nor war, nor glory. 


Silent, my soul, 

With drooping lids, as waiting, ponder'd. 

Turning from all the samples, monuments of heroes. 

Autumn Rivulets. 295 

While through the interior vistas, 

Noiseless uprose, phantasmic, (as by night Auroras of the north,) 

Lambent tableaus, prophetic, bodiless scenes, 

Spiritual projections. 

In one, among the city streets a laborer's home appear'd, 

After his day's work done, cleanly, sweet-air'd, the gaslight burning, 

The carpet swept and a fire in the cheerful stove. 

In one, the sacred parturition scene, 

A happy painless mother birth'd a perfect child. 

In one, at a bounteous morning meal. 
Sat peaceful parents with contented sons. 

In one, by twos and threes, young people. 

Hundreds concentring, walk'd the paths and streets and roads, 

Toward a tall-domed school. 

In one a trio beautiful. 

Grandmother, loving daughter, loving daughter's daughter, sat, 

Chatting and sewing. 

In one, along a suite of noble rooms, 

'Mid plenteous books and journals, paintings on the walls, fine 

Were groups of friendly journeymen, mechanics young and old, 
Reading, conversing. 

All, all the shows of laboring life. 

City and country, women's, men's and children's, 

Their wants provided for, hued in the sun and tinged for once 
with joy. 

Marriage, the street, the factory, farm, the house-room, lodging- 

Labor and toil, the bath, gymnasium, playground, library, college, 

The student, boy or girl, led forward to be taught. 

The sick cared for, the shoeless shod, the orphan father'd and 

The hungry fed, the houseless housed ; 

(The intentions perfect and divine. 

The workings, details, haply human.) 

O thou within this tomb. 
From thee such scenes, thou stintless, lavish giver, 

296 Leaves of Grass. 

Tallying the gifts of earth, large as the earth, 

Thy name an earth, with mountains, fields and tides. 

Nor by your streams alone, you rivers. 

By you, your banks Connecticut, 

By you and all your teeming life old Thames, 

By you Potomac laving the ground Washington trod, by you 

You Hudson, you endless Mississippi — nor you alone, 
But to the high seas launch, my thought, his memory. 


( To Confront a Portrait.) 

Out from behind this bending rough-cut mask, 

These lights and shades, this drama of the whole, 

This common curtain of the face contain'd in me for me, in you 

for you, in each for each, 
(Tragedies, sorrows, laughter, tears — O heaven ! 
The jmssionate teeming plays this curtain hid !) 
This glaze of God's serenest purest sky. 
This film of Satan's seething pit. 
This heart's geography's map, this limitless small continent, this 

soundless sea ; 
Out from the convolutions of this globe. 
This subtler astronomic orb than sun or moon, than Jupiter, Venus, 

This condensation of the universe, (nay here the only universe, 
Here the idea, all in this mystic handful wrapt ;) 
These burin'd eyes, flashing to you to pass to future time. 
To launch and spin through space revolving sideling, from these 

to emanate, 
To you whoe'er you are — a look. 

A traveler of thoughts and years, of peace and war. 

Of youth long sped and middle age declining, 

(As the first volume of a tale perused and laid away, and this the 

Songs, ventures, speculations, presently to close,) 
Lingering a moment here and now, to you I opposite turn, 

Autumn Rivulets. 297 

As on the road or at some crevice door by chance, or open'd win- 
Pausing, inclining, baring my head, you specially I greet. 
To draw and clinch your soul for once inseparably with mine, 
Then travel travel on. 


VocALiSM, measure, concentration, determination, and the divine 
power to speak words ; 

Are you full-lung'd and limber-lipp'd from long trial? from vigor- 
ous practice ? from physique ? 

Do you move in these broad lands as broad as they? 

Come duly to the divine power to speak words? 

For only at last after many years, after chastity, friendship, procrea- 
tion, prudence, and nakedness, 

After treading ground and breasting river and lake. 

After a loosen'd throat, after absorbing eras, temperaments, races, 
after knowledge, freedom, crimes. 

After complete faith, after clarifyings, elevations, and removing 

After these and more, it is just possible there comes to a man, a 
woman, the divine power to speak words ; 

Then toward that man or that woman swiftly hasten all — none 
refuse, all attend. 

Armies, ships, antiquities, libraries, paintings, machines, cities, 
hate, despair, amity, pain, theft, murder, aspiration, form in 
close ranks. 

They debouch as they are wanted to march obediently through 
the mouth of that man or that woman. 


O what is it in me that makes me tremble so at voices? 

Surely whoever speaks to me in the right voice, him or her I shall 

As the water follows the moon, silently, with fluid steps, anywhere 

around the globe. 

All waits for the right voices ; 

Where is the practis'd and perfect organ? where is the developed 

For I see every word utter'd thence has deeper, sweeter, new 

sounds, impossible on less terms. 

298 Leaves of Grass. 

I see brains and lips closed, tympans and temples unstruck, 
Until that comes which has the quality to strike and to unclose, 
Until that comes which has the quality to bring forth what lies 
slumbering forever ready in all words. 


My spirit to yours dear brother, 

Do not mind because many sounding your name do not under- 
stand you, 

I do not sound your name, but I understand you, 

I specify you with joy O my comrade to salute you, and to salute 
those who are with you, before and since, and those to 
come also. 

That we all labor together transmitting the same charge and suc- 

We few equals indifferent of lands, indifferent of times. 

We, enclosers of all continents, all castes, allowers of all theologies, 

Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men, 

We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but reject not the 
disputers nor any thing that is asserted. 

We hear the bawling and din, we are reach'd at by divisions, jeal- 
ousies, recriminations on every side, 

They close peremptorily upon us to surround us, my comrade, 

Yet we walk unheld, free, the whole earth over, journeying up and 
down till we make our ineffaceable mark upon time and the 
diverse eras. 

Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and women of races, 
ages to come, may prove brethren and lovers as we are. 


You felons on trial in courts. 

You convicts in prison-cells, you sentenced assassins chain'd and 

handcuff'd with iron. 
Who am I too that I am not on trial or in prison ? 
Me ruthless and devilish as any, that my wrists are not chain'd 

with iron, or my ankles with iron ? 

You prostitutes flaunting over the trottoirs or obscene in your 

Who am I that I should call you more obscene than myself ? 

Autumn Rivulets. 299 

culpable ! I acknowledge — I expose ! 

(O admirers, praise not me — compliment not me — you make 
me wince, 

1 see what you do not — I know what you do not.) 

Inside these breast-bones I lie smutch'd and choked, 

Beneath this face that appears so impassive hell's tides continually 

Lusts and wickedness are acceptable to me, 
I walk with delinquents with passionate love, 
I feel I am of them — I belong to those convicts and prostitutes 

And henceforth I will not deny them — for how can I deny myself ? 


Laws for creations, 

For strong artists and leaders, for fresh broods of teachers and 

perfect literats for America, 
For noble savans and coming musicians. 

All must have reference to the ensemble of the world, and the 
compact truth of the world. 

There shall be no subject too pronounced — all works shall illus- 
trate the divine law of indirections. 

What do you suppose creation is? 

What do you suppose will satisfy the soul, except to walk free and 

own no superior? 
What do you suppose I would intimate to you in a hundred ways, 

but that man or woman is as good as God ? 
And that there is no God any more divine than Yourself ? 
And that that is what the oldest and newest myths finally mean ? 
And that you or any one must approach creations through such 



Be composed — be at ease with me — I am Walt Whitman, liberal 

and lusty as Nature, 
Not till the sun excludes you do I exclude you. 
Not till the waters refuse to glisten for you and the leaves to rustle 

for you, do my words refuse to glisten and rustle for you. 

300 Leaves of Grass. 

My girl I appoint with you an appointment, and I charge you that 

you make preparation to be worthy to meet me, 
And I charge you that you be patient and perfect till I come. 

Till then I salute you'with a significant look that you do not forget 


I WAS looking a long while for Intentions, 

For a clew to the history of the past for myself, and for these 
chants — and now I have found it. 

It is not in those paged fables in the libraries, (them I neither 
accept nor reject,) 

It is no more in the legends than in all else. 

It is in the present — it is this earth to-day. 

It is in Democracy — (the purport and aim of all the past,) 

It is the life of one man or one woman to-day — the average man 
of to-day. 

It is in languages, social customs, literatures, arts, 

It is in the broad show of artificial things, ships, machinery, poli- 
tics, creeds, modern improvements, and the interchange of 

All for the modern — all for the average man of to-day. 


Of persons arrived at high positions, ceremonies, wealth, scholar- 
ships, and the like ; 

(To me all that those persons have arrived at sinks away from 
them, except as it results to their bodies and souls. 

So that often to me they appear gaunt and naked. 

And often to me each one mocks the others, and mocks himself or 

And of each one the core of life, namely happiness, is full of the 
rotten excrement of maggots. 

And often to me those men and women pass unwittingly the true 
reaUties of life, and go toward false realities. 

And often to me they are alive after what custom has served them, 
but nothing more. 

And often to me they are sad, hasty, unwaked sonnambules walk- 
ing the dusk.) 

Autumn Rivulets, 301 


Why, who makes much of a miracle ? 

As to me I know of nothing else but miracles, 

Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, 

Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky. 

Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the 

Or stand under trees in the woods. 
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night 

with any one I love. 
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest, 
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, 
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon. 
Or animals feeding in the fields. 
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air. 
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet 

and bright. 
Or the exquisite dehcate thin curve of the new moon in spring ; 
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, 
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place. 

To me every hour of the hght and dark is a miracle, 

Every cubic inch of space is a miracle, 

Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the 

Every foot of the interior swarms with the same. 

To me the sea is a continual miracle. 

The fishes that swim — the rocks — the motion of the waves — 

the ships with men in them. 
What stranger miracles are there ? 


Where the city's ceaseless crowd moves on the livelong day, 
Withdrawn I join a group of children watching, I pause aside with 

By the curb toward the edge of the flagging, 
A knife-grinder works at his wheel sharpening a great knife. 
Bending over he carefully holds it to the stone, by foot and knee, 
With measured tread he turns rapidly, as he presses with light but 
firm hand. 

302 Leaver of Grass. 

Forth issue then in copious golden jets, 
Sparkles from the wheel. 

The scene and all its belongings, how they seize and affect me, 
The sad sharp-chinn'd old man with worn clothes and broad 

shoulder-band of leather, 
Myself effusing and fluid, a phantom curiously floating, now here 

absorb'd and arrested. 
The group, (an unminded point set in a vast surrounding,) 
The attentive, quiet children, the loud, proud, restive base of the 

The low hoarse purr of the whirhng stone, the light-press'd blade, 
Diffusing, dropping, sideways-darting, in tiny showers of gold, 
Sparkles from the wheel. 


Is reform needed ? is it through you ? 

The greater the reform needed, the greater the Personality you 
need to accompHsh it. 

You ! do you not see how it would serve to have eyes, blood, 

complexion, clean and sweet? 
Do you not see how it would serve to have such a body and soul 

that when you enter the crowd an atmosphere of desire 

and command enters with you, and every one is impress'd 

with your Personality? 

O the magnet ! the flesh over and over ! 

Go, dear friend, if need be give up all else, and commence to-day 

to inure yourself to pluck, reality, self-esteem, definiteness, 

Rest not till you rivet and publish yourself of your own Personality. 


Unfolded out of the folds of the woman man comes unfolded, 

and is always to come unfolded. 
Unfolded only out of the superbest woman of the earth is to come 

the superbest man of the earth. 
Unfolded out of the friendliest woman is to come the friendliest 

Unfolded only out of the perfect body of a woman can a man be 

form'd of perfect body, 

Autumn Rivulets. 303 

Unfolded only out of the inimitable poems of woman can come 

the poems of man, (only thence have my poems come ;) 
Unfolded out of the strong and arrogant woman I lave, only 

thence can appear the strong and arrogant man I love, 
Unfolded by brawny embraces from the well-muscled woman I 

love, only thence come the brawny embraces of the man, 
Unfolded out of the folds of the woman's brain come all the folds 

of the man's brain, duly obedient, 
Unfolded out of the justice of the woman all justice is unfolded, 
Unfolded out of the sympathy of the woman is all sympathy ; 
A man is a great thing upon the earth and through eternity, but 

every jot of the greatness of man is unfolded out of 

woman ; 
First the man is shaped in the woman, he can then be shaped in 



What am I after all but a child, pleased with the sound of my own 

name ? repeating it over and over ; 
I stand apart to hear — it never tires me. 

To you your name also ; 

Did you think there was nothing but two or three pronunciations 
in the sound of your name ? 


Who includes diversity and is Nature, 

Who is the amplitude of the earth, and the coarseness and sex- 
uality of the earth, and the great charity of the earth, and 
the equilibrium also, 

Who has not look'd forth from the windows the eyes for nothing, 
or whose brain held audience with messengers for nothing, 

Who contains believers and disbelievers, who is the most majestic 

Who holds duly his or her triune proportion of realism, spiritualism, 
and of the aesthetic or intellectual, 

Who having consider'd the body finds all its organs and parts 

Who, out of the theory of the earth and of his or her body under- 
stands by subtle analogies all other theories, 

The theory of a city, a poem, and of the large politics of these 
States j 

304 Leaves of Grass. 

Who believes not only in our globe with its sun and moon, but in 
other globes with their suns and moons, 

Who, constructing the house of himself or herself, not for a day 
but for all time, sees races, eras, dates, generations. 

The past, the future, dwelling there, like space, inseparable to- 


Others may praise what they like ; 

But I, from the banks of the running Missouri, praise nothing in 

art or aught else. 
Till it has well inhaled the atmosphere of this river, also the 

western prairie-scent, 
And exudes it all again. 


Who learns my lesson complete ? 

Boss, journeyman, apprentice, churchman and atheist, 

The stupid and the wise thinker, parents and offspring, merchant, 

clerk, porter and customer. 
Editor, author, artist, and schoolboy — draw nigh and commence ; 
It is no lesson — it lets down the bars to a good lesson, 
And that to another, and every one to another still. 

The great laws take and effuse without argument, 

I am of the same style, for I am their friend, 

I love them quits and quits, I do not halt and make salaams. 

I lie abstracted and hear beautiful tales of things and the reasons 

of things, 
They are so beautiful I nudge myself to listen. 

I- cannot say to any person what I hear — I cannot say it to myself 
— it is very wonderful. 

It is no small matter, this round and delicious globe moving so 

exactly in its orbit for ever and ever, without one jolt or the 

untruth of a single second, 
I do not think it was made in six days, nor in ten thousand years, 

nor ten billions of years. 
Nor plann'd and built one thing after another as an architect 

plans and builds a house. 

A UTUMN Rivulets. 305 

I do not think seventy years is the time of a man or woman, 
Nor that seventy milUons of years is the time of a man or woman, 
Nor that years will ever stop the existence of me, or any one else. 

Is it wonderful that I should be immortal ? as every one is im- 
mortal ; 

I know it is wonderful, but my eyesight is equally wonderful, and 
how I was conceived in my mother's womb is equally 

And pass'd from a babe in the creeping trance of a couple of 
summers and winters to articulate and walk — all this is 
equally wonderful. 

And that my soul embraces you this hour, and we affect each 
other without ever seeing each other, and never perhaps to 
see each other, is every bit as wonderful. 

And that I can think such thoughts as these is just as wonderful, 
And that I can remind you, and you think them and know them 
to be true, is just as wonderful. 

And that the moon spins round the earth and on with the earth, is 

equally wonderful. 
And that they balance themselves with the sun and stars is equally 



All submit to them where they sit, inner, secure, unapproachable 

to analysis in the soul. 
Not traditions, not the outer authorities are the judges, 
They are the judges of outer authorities and of all traditions. 
They corroborate as they go only whatever corroborates them- 
selves, and touches themselves ; 
For all that, they have it forever in themselves to corroborate far 
and near without one exception. 


On my Northwest coast in the midst of the night a fishermen's 

group stands watching, 
Out on the lake that expands before them, others are spearing 

The canoe, a dim shadowy thing, moves across the black water, 
Bearing a torch ablaze at the prow. 

3o6 Leaves of Grass, 


O STAR of France, 

The brightness of thy hope and strength and fame, 
Like some proud ship that led the fleet so long, 
Beseems to-day a wreck driven by the gale, a mastless hulk, 
And 'mid its teeming madden'd half-drown'd crowds, 
Nor helm nor helmsman. 

Dim smitten star, 

Orb not of France alone, pale symbol of my soul, its dearest 

The struggle and the daring, rage divine for liberty. 

Of aspirations toward the far ideal, enthusiast's dreams of brother- 

Of terror to the tyrant and the priest. 

Star crucified — by traitors sold, 

Star panting o'er a land of death, heroic land, 

Strange, passionate, mocking, frivolous land. 

Miserable ! yet for thy errors, vanities, sins, I will not now rebuke 

Thy unexampled woes and pangs have quell'd them all, 
And left thee sacred. 

In that amid thy many faults thou ever aimedst highly. 

In that thou wouldst not really sell thyself however great the price, 

In that thou surely wakedst weeping from thy drugg'd sleep. 

In that alone among thy sisters thou, giantess, didst rend the ones 

that shamed thee, 
In that thou couldst not, wouldst not, wear the usual chains, 
This cross, thy livid face, thy pierced hands and feet, 
The spear thrust in thy side. 

O star ! O ship of France, beat back and baffled long ! 
Bear up O smitten orb ! O ship continue on ! 

Sure as the ship of all, the Earth itself. 
Product of deathly fire and turbulent chaos. 
Forth from its spasms of fury and its poisons^ 
Issuing at last in perfect power and beauty. 
Onward beneath the sun following its course, 
So thee ship of France ! 

Autumn Rivulets, 2P7 

Finished the days, the clouds dispel'd, 

The travail o'er, the long-sought extrication, 

When lo ! reborn, high o'er the European world, 

(In gladness answering thence, as face afar to face, reflecting ours 

Again thy star O France, fair lustrous star. 
In heavenly peace, clearer, more bright than ever, 
Shall beam immortal. 


In a far-away northern county in the placid pastoral region. 
Lives my farmer friend, the theme of my recitative, a famous 

tamer of oxen. 
There they bring him the three-year-olds and the four-year-olds to 

break them, 
He will take the wildest steer in the world and break him and 

tame him. 
He will go fearless without any whip where the young bullock 

chafes up and down the yard, 
The bullock's head tosses restless high in the air with raging eyes, 
Yet see you ! how soon his rage subsides — how soon this tamer 

tames him ; 
See you ! on the farms hereabout a hundred oxen young and old, 

and he is the man who has tamed them, 
They all know him, all are affectionate to him ; 
See you ! some are such beautiful animals, so lofty looking ; 
Some are buff-color'd, some mottled, one has a white line running 

along his back, some are brindled. 
Some have wide flaring horns (a good sign) — see you ! the 

bright hides, 
See, the two with stars on their foreheads — see, the round bodies 

and broad backs. 
How straight and square they stand on their legs — what fine 

sagacious eyes ! 
How they watch their tamer — they wish him near them — how 

they turn to look after him ! 
What yearning expression ! how uneasy they are when he moves 

away from them ; 
Now I marvel what it can be he appears to them, (books, politics, 

poems, depart — all else departs,) 
I confess I envy only his fascination — my silent, illiterate friend, 
Whom a hundred oxen love there in his hfe on farms. 
In the northern county far, in the placid pastoral region. 

308 Leaves of Grass. 


For the Inauguration of a Public School^ Camden^ New Jersey^ 1874. 

An old man's thought of school, 

An old man gathering youthful memories and blooms that youth 
itself cannot. 

Now only do I know you, 

O fair auroral skies — O morning dew upon the grass ! 

And these I see, these sparkling eyes. 

These stores of mystic meaning, these young lives, 

Building, equipping like a fleet of ships, immortal ships, 

Soon to sail out over the measureless seas, 

On the soul's voyage. 

Only a lot of boys and girls ? 

Only the tiresome spelling, writing, ciphering classes ? 

Only a public school ? 

Ah more, infinitely more ; 

(As George Fox rais'd his warning cry, '^ Is it this pile of brick 

and mortar, these dead floors, windows, rails, you call the 

church ? 
Why this is not the church at all — the church is living, ever living 


And you America, 

Cast you the real reckoning for your present? 

The lights and shadows of your future, good or evil? 

To girlhood, boyhood look, the teacher and the school. 


Wandering at morn, 

Emerging from the night from gloomy thoughts, thee in my 

Yearning for thee harmonious Union ! thee, singing bird divine ! 

Thee coil'd in evil times my country, w^th craft and black dismay, 
with every meanness, treason thrust upon thee. 

This common marvel I beheld — the parent thrush I watch'd feed- 
ing its young, 

The singing thrush whose tones of joy and faith ecstatic, 

Fail not to certify and cheer my soul. 

Autumn Rivulets. 309 

There ponder'd, felt I, 

If worms, snakes, loathsome grubs, may to sweet spiritual songs 

be turn'd, 
If vermin so transposed, so used and bless 'd may be, 
Then may I trust in you, your fortunes, days, my country ; 
Who knows but these may be the lessons fit for you? 
From these your future song may rise with joyous trills, 
Destin'd to fill the world. 


['* The Seventeenth — the finest Regimental Band I ever heardJ'^'] 

Through the soft evening air enwinding all, 

Rocks, woods, fort, cannon, pacing sentries, endless wilds, 

In dulcet streams, in flutes' and cornets' notes, 

Electric, pensive, turbulent, artificial, 

(Yet strangely fitting even here, meanings unknown before, 

Subtler than ever, more harmony, as if born here, related here, 

Not to the city's fresco'd rooms, not to the audience of the opera 

Sounds, echoes, wandering strains, as really here at home, 
Sonnambuld's innocent love, trios with Normals anguish, 
And thy ecstatic chorus Poliuto ;) 
Ray'd in the limpid yellow slanting sundown, 
Music, Italian music in Dakota. 

While Nature, sovereign of this gnarl'd realm. 

Lurking in hidden barbaric grim recesses. 

Acknowledging rapport however far remov'd, 

(As some old root or soil of earth its last-born flower or fruit,) 

Listens well pleas'd. 


With all thy gifts America, 

Standing secure, rapidly tending, overlooking the world. 

Power, wealth, extent, vouchsafed to thee — with these and like 

of these vouchsafed to thee, 
What if one gift thou lackest ? (the ultimate human problem never 

The gift of perfect women fit for thee — what if that gift of gifts 

thou lackest? 
The towering feminine of thee? the beauty, health, completion, 

fit for thee ? 
The mothers fit for thee ? 

310 Leaves of Grass, 


In a little house keep I pictures suspended, it is not a fix'd house, 
It is round, it is only a few inches from one side to the other ; 
Yet behold, it has room for all the shows of the world, all memo- 
ries ! 
Here the tableaus of life, and here the groupings of death ; 
Here, do you know this ? this is cicerone himself. 
With finger rais'd he points to the prodigal pictures. 


A NEWER garden of creation, no primal solitude, 

Dense, joyous, modern, populous millions, cities and farms, 

With iron interlaced, composite, tied, many in one. 

By all the world contributed — freedom's and law's and thrift's 

The crown and teeming paradise, so far, of time's accumulations, 
To justify the past. 



Proud music of the storm. 

Blast that careers so free, whistling across the prairies. 
Strong hum of forest tree-tops — wind of the mountains, 
Personified dim shapes — you hidden orchestras. 
You serenades of phantoms with instruments alert. 
Blending with Nature's rhythmus all the tongues of nations ; 
You chords left as by vast composers — you choruses, 
You formless, free, rehgious dances — you from the Orient, 
You undertone of rivers, roar of pouring cataracts. 
You sounds from distant guns with galloping cavalry, 
Echoes of camps with all the different bugle-calls. 
Trooping tumultuous, filling the midnight late, bending me power- 
Entering my lonesome slumber-chamber, why have you seiz'd me ? 

Come forward O my soul, and let the rest retire. 
Listen, lose not, it is toward thee they tend. 
Parting the midnight, entering my slumber-chamber, 
For thee they sing and dance O soul. 

Proud Music of the Storm. 31 1 

A festival song, 

The duet of the bridegroom and the bride, a marriage-march, 
With Hps of love, and hearts of lovers fill'd to the brim with love, 
The red-flush'd cheeks and perfumes, the cortege swarming full of 

friendly faces young and old. 
To flutes' clear notes and sounding harps' cantabile.* 

Now loud approaching drums, 

Victoria ! see'st thou in powder-smoke the banners torn but flying? 

the rout of the baffled? 
Hearest those shouts of a conquering army ? 

(Ah soul, the sobs of women, the wounded groaning in agony, 
The hiss and crackle of flames, the blacken'd ruins, the embers 

of cities. 
The dirge and desolation of ;nankind.) 

Now airs antique and mediaeval fill me, 

I see and hear old harpers with their harps at Welsh festivals, 

I hear the minnesingers singing their lays of love, 

I hear the minstrels, gleemen, troubadours, of the middle ages. 

Now the great organ sounds. 

Tremulous, while underneath, (as the hid footholds of the earth, 

On which arising rest, and leaping forth depend. 

All shapes of beauty, grace and strength, all hues we know. 

Green blades of grass and warbling birds, children that gambol 

and play, the clouds of heaven above,) 
The strong base stands, and its pulsations intermits not, 
Bathing, supporting, merging all the rest, maternity of all the 

And with it every instrument in multitudes, 
The players playing, all the world's musicians. 
The solemn hymns and masses rousing adoration, 
All passionate heart-chants, sorrowful appeals, 
The measureless sweet vocahsts of ages. 
And for their solvent setting earth's own diapason. 
Of winds and woods and mighty ocean waves, 
A new composite orchestra, binder of years and climes, ten-fold 

As of the far-back days the poets tell, the Paradiso, 
The straying thence, the separation long, but now the wandering 

The journey done, the journeyman come home. 
And man and art with Nature fused again. 

312 Leaves of Grass. 

Tutti ! for earth and heaven ; 

(The Almighty leader now for once has signal'd with his wand.) 

The manly strophe of the husbands of the world, 
And all the wives responding. 

The tongues of violins, 

(I think O tongues ye tell this heart, that cannot tell itself, 

This brooding yearning heart, that cannot tell itself.) 

Ah from a little child, 

Thou knowest soul how to me all sounds became music, 

My mother's voice in lullaby or hymn, 

(The voice, O tender voices, memory's loving voices. 

Last miracle of all, O dearest mother's, sister's, voices ;) 

The rain, the growing corn, the breeze among the long-leaved corn, 

The measur'd sea-surf beating on the sand. 

The twittering bird, the hawk's sharp scream. 

The wild-fowl's notes at night as flying low migrating north or 

The psalm in the country church or mid the clustering trees, the 

open air camp-meeting, 
The fiddler in the tavern, the glee, the long-strung sailor-song, 
The lowing cattle, bleating sheep, the crowing cock at dawn. 

All songs of current lands come sounding round me, 
The German airs of friendship, wine and love, 
Irish ballads, merry jigs and dances, English warbles, 
Chansons of France, Scotch tunes, and o'er the rest, 
Italia's peerless compositions. 

Across the stage with pallor on her face, yet lurid passion, 
Stalks Norma brandishing the dagger in her hand. 

I see poor crazed Lucia's eyes' unnatural gleam, 
Her hair down her back falls loose and dishevel'd. 

I see where Ernani walking the bridal garden, 

Amid the scent of night-roses, radiant, holding his bride by the 

Hears the infernal call, the death-pledge of the horn. 

To crossing swords and gray hairs bared to heaven, 
The clear electric base and baritone of the world. 
The trombone duo, Libertad forever ! 

Proud Music of the Storm. 313 

From Spanish chestnut trees* dense shade, 

By old and heavy convent walls a wailing song, 

Song of lost love, the torch of youth and life quench'd in despair, 

Song of the dying swan, Fernando's heart is breaking. 

Awaking from her woes at last retriev'd Amina sings. 

Copious as stars and glad as morning light the torrents of her joy. 

(The teeming lady comes. 

The lustrious orb, Venus contralto, the blooming mother, 

Sister of loftiest gods, Alboni's self I hear.) 

I hear those odes, symphonies, operas, 

I hear in the William Tell the music of an arous'd and angry 

I hear Meyerbeer's Huguenots, the Prophet, or Robert, 
Gounod's Faust, or Mozart's Don Juan. 

I hear the dafice-music of all nations. 

The waltz, some delicious measure, lapsing, bathing me in bliss, 

The bolero to tinkling guitars and clattering castanets. 

I see rehgious dances old and new, 

I hear the sound of the Hebrew lyre, 

I see the crusaders marching bearing the cross on high, to the 

martial clang of cymbals, 
I hear dervishes monotonously chanting, interspers'd with frantic 

shouts, as they spin around turning always towards Mecca, 
I see the rapt religious dances of the Persians and the Arabs, 
Again, at Eleusis, home of Ceres, I see the modern Greeks dancing, 
I hear them clapping their hands as they bend their bodies, 
I hear the metrical shuffling of their feet. 

I see again the wild old Corybantian dance, the performers 

wounding each other, 
I see the Roman youth to the shrill sound of flageolets throwing 

and catching their weapons, 
As they fall on their knees and rise again. 

I hear from the Mussulman mosque the muezzin calling, 

I see the worshippers within, nor form nor sermon, argument nor 

But silent, strange, devout, rais'd, glowing heads, ecstatic faces. 

314 Leaves of Grass, 

I hear the Egyptian harp of many strings, 

The primitive chants of the Nile boatmen, 

The sacred imperial hymns of China, 

To the dehcate sounds of the king, (the stricken wood and stone,) 

Or to Hindu flutes and the fretting twang of the vina, 

A band of bayaderes. 


Now Asia, Africa leave me, Europe seizing inflates me. 

To organs huge and bands I hear as from vast concourses of 

Luther's strong hymn Eine feste Burg ist unser Gotf, 
Rossini's Stabat Mater dolorosa^ 
Or floating in some high cathedral dim with gorgeous color'd 

The passionate Agnus Dei or Gloria in Excelsis. 

Composers ! mighty maestros ! 

And you, sweet singers of old lands, soprani, tenori, bassi ! 

To you a new bard caroling in the West, 

Obeisant sends his love. 

(Such led to thee O soul. 

All senses, shows and objects, lead to thee. 

But now it seems to me sound leads o'er all the rest.) 

I hear the annual singing of the children in St. Paul's cathedral. 
Or, under the high roof of some colossal hall, the symphonies, 

oratorios of Beethoven, Handel, or Haydn, 
The Creatio7i in billows of godhood laves me. 

Give me to hold all sounds, (I madly struggling cry,) 

Fill me with all the voices of the universe. 

Endow me with their thobbings. Nature's also. 

The tempests, waters, winds, operas and chants, marches and 

Utter, pour in, for I would take them all ! 

Then I woke softly. 

And pausing, questioning awhile the music of my dream, 

And questioning all those reminiscences, the tempest in its fury, 

And all the songs of sopranos and tenors. 

And those rapt oriental dances of religious fervor, 

Passage to India. 315 

And the sweet varied instruments, and the diapason of organs, 
And all the artless plaints of love and grief and death, 
I said to my silent curious soul out of the bed of the slumber- 
Come, for I have found the clew I sought so long, 
Let us go forth refresh'd amid the day. 
Cheerfully tallying life, walking the world, the real, 
Nourished henceforth by our celestial dream. 

And I said, moreover, 

Haply what thou hast heard O soul was not the sound of winds, 

Nor dream of raging storm, nor sea-hawk's flapping wings nor 

harsh scream. 
Nor vocalism of sun-bright Italy, 
Nor German organ majestic, nor vast concourse of voices, nor 

layers of harmonies. 
Nor strophes of husbands and wives, nor sound of marching 

Nor flutes, nor harps, nor the bugle-calls of camps. 
But to a new rhythmus fitted for thee. 
Poems bridging the way from Life to Death, vaguely wafted in 

night air, un caught, unwritten. 
Which let us go forth in the bold day and write. 


Singing my days, 

Singing the great achievements of the present, 

Singing the strong light works of engineers, 

Our modern wonders, (the antique ponderous Seven outvied,) 

In the Old World the east the Suez canal. 

The New by its mighty railroad spann'd. 

The seas inlaid with eloquent gentle wires ; 

Yet first to sound, and ever sound, the cry with thee O soul, 

The Past ! the Past ! the Past 1 

The Past — the dark unfathom'd retrospect ! 

The teeming gulf — the sleepers and the shadows ! 

The past — the infinite greatness of the past ! 

For what is the present after all but a growth out of the past ? 

3l6 Leaves of Grass. 

(As a projectile formed, impeird, passing a certain line, still keeps 

So the present, utterly form'd, impell'd by the past.) 


Passage O soul to India ! 

Eclaircise the myths Asiatic, the primitive fables. 

Not you alone proud truths of the world, 

Nor you alone ye facts of modern science, 

But myths and fables of eld, Asia's, Africa's fables. 

The far-darting beams of the spirit, the unloos'd dreams, 

The deep diving bibles and legends. 

The daring plots of the poets, the elder religions ; 

O you temples fairer than lilies pour'd over by the rising sun ! 

you fables spurning the known, eluding the hold of the known, 

mounting to heaven ! 
You lofty and dazzling towers, pinnacled, red as roses, burnish'd 

with gold ! 
Towers of fables immortal fashion'd from mortal dreams ! 
You too I welcome and fully the same as the rest ! 
You too with joy I sing. 

Passage to India ! 

Lo, soul, seest thou not God's purpose from the first? 

The earth to be spann'd, connected by network. 

The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage, 

The oceans to be cross'd, the distant brought near. 

The lands to be welded together. 

A worship new I sing. 

You captains, voyagers, explorers, yours. 

You engineers, you architects, machinists, yours, 

You, not for trade or transportation only, 

But in God's name, and for thy sake O soul. 


Passage to India ! 

Lo soul for thee of tableaus twain, 

1 see in one the Suez canal initiated, open'd, 

I see the procession of steamships, the Empress Eugenie's leading 

the van, 
I mark from on deck the strange landscape, the pure sky, the 

level sand in the distance, 
I pass swiftly the picturesque groups, the workmen gather'd. 
The gigantic dredging machines. 

Passage to India, - 317 

In one again, different, (yet thine, all thine, O soul, the same,) 

I see over my own continent the Pacific railroad surmounting 
every barrier, 

I see continual trains of cars winding along the Platte carrying 
freight and passengers, 

I hear the locomotives rushing and roaring, and the shrill steam- 

I hear the echoes reverberate through the grandest scenery in the 

I cross the Laramie plains, I note the rocks in grotesque shapes, 
the buttes, 

I see the plentiful larkspur and wild onions, the barren, colorless, 

I see in glimpses afar or towering immediately above me the 
great mountains, I see the Wind river and the Wahsatch 

I see the Monument mountain and the Eagle's Nest, I pass the 
Promontory, I ascend the Nevadas, 

I scan the noble Elk mountain and wind around its base, 

I see the Humboldt range, I thread the valley and cross the river, 

I see the clear waters of lake Tahoe, I see forests of majestic 

Or crossing the great desert, the alkaline plains, I behold enchant- 
ing mirages of waters and meadows, 

Marking through these and after all, in duplicate slender Hnes, 

Bridging the three or four thousand miles of land travel, 

Tying the Eastern to the Western sea, 

The road between Europe and Asia. 

(Ah Genoese thy dream ! thy dream ! 
Centuries after thou art laid in thy grave, 
The shore thou foundest verifies thy dream.) 

Passage to India ! 

Struggles of many a captain, tales of many a sailor dead. 

Over my mood stealing and spreading they come, 

Like clouds and cloudlets in the unreach'd sky. 

Along all history, down the slopes. 

As a rivulet running, sinking now, and now again to the surface 

A ceaseless thought, a varied train — lo, soul, to thee, thy sight, 

they rise. 
The plans, the voyages again, the expeditions ; 

3i8 Leaves of Grass. 

Again Vasco de Gama sails forth, 
Again the knowledge gain'd, the mariner's compass, 
Lands found and nations born, thou born America, 
For purpose vast, man's long probation fill'd, 
Thou rondure of the world at last accomphsh'd. 

O vast Rondure, swimming in space, 
Cover'd all over with visible power and beauty, 
Alternate light and day and the teeming spiritual darkness, 
Unspeakable high processions of sun and moon and countless 

stars above. 
Below, the manifold grass and waters, animals, mountains, trees. 
With inscrutable purpose, some hidden prophetic intention. 
Now first it seems my thought begins to span thee. 

Down from the gardens of Asia descending radiating, 

Adam and Eve appear, then their myriad progeny after them, 

Wandering, yearning, curious, with restless explorations. 

With questionings, baffled, formless, feverish, with never-happy 

With that sad incessant refrain, Whei^efore unsatisfied soul? and 

WJiither O 7nocking life ? 

Ah who shall soothe these feverish children ? 

Who justify these restless explorations? 

Who speak the secret of impassive earth ? 

Who bind it to us? what is this separate Nature so unnatural? 

What is this earth to our affections? (unloving earth, without a 

throb to answer ours, 
Cold earth, the place of graves.) 

Yet soul be sure the first intent remains, and shall be carried out, 
Perhaps even now the time has arrived. 

After the seas are all cross'd, (as they seem already cross'd,) 
After the great captains and engineers have accomphsh'd their 

After the noble inventors, after the scientists, the chemist, the 

geologist, ethnologist, 
Finally shall come the poet worthy that name. 
The true son of God shall come singing his songs. 

Then not your deeds only O voyagers, O scientists and inventors, 
shall be justified. 

Passage to India. 319 

All these hearts as of fretted children shall be sooth'd, 

All affection shall be fully responded to, the secret shall- be told, 

All these separations and gaps shall be taken up and hook'd and 

link'd together, 
The whole earth, this cold, impassive, voiceless earth, shall be 

completely justified, 
Trinitas divine shall be gloriously accomplish'd and compacted by 

the true son of God, the poet, 
(He shall indeed pass the straits and conquer the mountains, 
He shall double the cape of Good Hope to some purpose,) 
Nature and Man shall be disjoin'd and diffused no more, 
The true son of God shall absolutely fuse them. 

Year at whose wide-flung door I sing ! 

Year of the purpose accomphsh'd ! 

Year of the marriage of continents, cHmates and oceans ! 

(No mere doge of Venice now wedding the Adriatic,) 

I see O year in you the vast terraqueous globe given and giving 

Europe to Asia, Africa join'd, and they to the New World, 
The lands, geographies, dancing before you, holding a festival 

As brides and bridegrooms hand in hand. 

Passage to India ! 

Cooling airs from Caucasus far, soothing cradle of man. 

The river Euphrates flowing, the past lit up again. 

Lo soul, the retrospect brought forward. 
The old, most populous, wealthiest of earth's lands, 
The streams of the Indus and the Ganges and their many af- 
(I my shores of America walking to-day behold, resuming all,) 
The tale of Alexander on his warlike marches suddenly dying. 
On one side China and on the other side Persia and Arabia, 
To the south the great seas and the bay of Bengal, 
The flowing literatures, tremendous epics, religions, castes. 
Old occult Brahma interminably far back, the tender and junior 

Central and southern empires and all their belongings, possessors. 
The wars of Tamerlane, the reign of Aurungzebe, 
The traders, rulers, explorers, Moslems, Venetians, Byzantium, the 
Arabs, Portuguese, 

320 Leaves of Grass, 

The first travelers famous yet, Marco Polo, Batouta the Moor, 
Doubts to be solv'd, the map incognita, blanks to be fill'd. 
The foot of man unstay'd, the hands never at rest. 
Thyself O soul that will not brook a challenge. 

The mediaeval navigators rise before me. 

The world of 1492, with its awaken'd enterprise, 

Something swelling in humanity now like the sap of the earth in 

The sunset splendor of chivalry declining. 

And who art thou sad shade? 

Gigantic, visionary, thyself a visionary. 

With majestic limbs and pious beaming eyes. 

Spreading around with every look of thine a golden world, 

Enhuing it with gorgeous hues. 

As the chief histrion, 

Down to the footlights walks in some great scena, 

Dominating the rest I see the Admiral himself, 

(History's type of courage, action, faith,) 

Behold him sail from Palos leading his little fleet. 

His voyage behold, his return, his great fame, 

His misfortunes, calumniators, behold him a prisoner, chained, 

Behold his dejection, poverty, death. 

(Curious in time I stand, noting the efforts of heroes. 

Is the deferment long ? bitter the slander, poverty, death ? 

Lies the seed unreck'd for centuries in the ground ? lo, to God's 

due occasion. 
Uprising in the night, it sprouts, blooms. 
And fills the earth with use and beauty.) 

Passage indeed O soul to primal thought. 

Not lands and seas alone, thy own clear freshness. 

The young maturity of brood and bloom, 

To realms of budding bibles. 

O soul, repressless, I with thee and thou with me, 

Thy circumnavigation of the world begin. 

Of man, the voyage of his mind's return. 

To reason's early paradise, 

Back, back to wisdom's birth, to innocent intuitions, 

Again with fair creation. 

Passage to India. 321 

O we can wait no longer, 

We too take ship O soul, 

Joyous we too launch out on trackless seas, 

Fearless for unknown shores on waves of ecstasy to sail, 

Amid the wafting winds, (thou pressing me to thee, I thee to me, 

O soul,) 
Caroling free, singing our song of God, 
Chanting our chant of pleasant exploration. 

With laugh and many a kiss, 

(Let others deprecate, let others weep for sin, remorse, humilia- 
O soul thou pleasest me, I thee. 

Ah more than any priest O soul we too believe in God, 
But with the mystery of God we dare not dally. 

soul thou pleasest me, I thee. 

Sailing these seas or on the hills, or waking in the night. 
Thoughts, silent thoughts, of Time and Space and Death, like 

waters flowing. 
Bear me indeed as through the regions infinite, 
Whose air I breathe, whose ripples hear, lave me all over, 
Bathe me O God in thee, mounting to thee, 

1 and my soul to range in range ot thee. 

Thou transcendent. 
Nameless, the fibre and the breath. 

Light of the light, shedding forth universes, thou centre of them. 
Thou mightier centre of the true, the good, the loving. 
Thou moral, spiritual fountain — affection's source — thou reser- 
(O pensive soul of me — O thirst unsatisfied — waitest not there? 
Waitest not haply for us somewhere there the Comrade perfect?) 
Thou pulse — thou motive of the stars, suns, systems, 
That, circling, move in order, safe, harmonious, 
Athwart the shapeless vastnesses of space, 

How should I think, how breathe a single breath, how speak, if, 
out of myself, 

1 could not launch, to those, superior universes ? 

Swiftly I shrivel at the thought of God, 

At Nature and its wonders, Time and Space and Death, 

But that I, turning, call to thee O soul, thou actual Me, 

322 Leaves of Grass. 

And lo, thou gently masterest the orbs, 
Thou matest Time, smilest content at Death, 
And fillest, swellest full the vastnesses of Space. 

Greater than stars or suns. 

Bounding O soul thou journeyest forth ; 

What love than thine and ours could wider amphfy? 

What aspirations, wishes, outvie thine and ours O soul? 

What dreams of the ideal? what plans of purity, perfection^ 

strength ? 
Wliat cheerful willingness for others' sake to give up all? 
For others' sake to suffer all ? 

Reckoning ahead O soul, when thou, the time achiev'd, 
The seas all cross'd, weather'd the capes, the voyage done, 
Surrounded, copest, frontest God, yieldest, the aim attain'd. 
As fill'd with friendship, love complete, the Elder Brother found, 
The Younger melts in fondness in his arms. 


Passage to more than India ! 
Are thy wings plumed indeed for such far flights? 
O soul, voyagest thou indeed on voyages like those ? 
Disportest thou on waters such as those ? 
Soundest below the Sanscrit and the Vedas? 
Then have thy bent unleash'd. 

Passage to you, your shores, ye aged fierce enigmas ! 
Passage to you, to mastership of you, ye strangling problems ! 
You, strew'd with the wrecks of skeletons, that, living, never 
reach'd you. 

Passage to more than India ! 

O secret of the earth and sky ! 

Of you O waters of the sea ! O winding creeks and rivers ! 

Of you O w^oods and fields ! of you strong mountains of my land ! 

Of you O prairies ! of you gray rocks ! 

O morning red ! O clouds ! O rain and snows ! 

O day and night, passage to you ! 

O sun and moon and all you stars ! Sirius and Jupiter ! 
Passage to you ! 

Passage, immediate passage ! the blood burns in my veins ! 
Away O soul ! hoist instantly the anchor ! 

Prayer of Columbus, 323 

Cut the hawsers — haul out — shake out every sail ! 

Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough ? 

Have we not grovel'd here long enough, eating and drinking like 

mere brutes? 
Have we not darken'd and dazed ourselves with books long enough ? 

Sail forth — steer for the deep waters only, 
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me, 
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, 
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all. 

O my brave soul ! 

O farther farther sail ! 

O daring joy, but safe ! are they not all the seas of God? 

O farther, farther, farther sail ! 


A BATTERED, wreck'd old man. 

Thrown on this savage shore, far, far from home, 

Pent by the sea and dark rebellious brows, twelve dreary months. 

Sore, stiff with many toils, sicken'd and nigh to death, 

I take my way along the island's edge, 

Venting a heavy heart. 

I am too full of woe ! 

Haply I may not live another day ; 

I cannot rest O God, I cannot eat or drink or sleep, 

Till I put forth myself, my prayer, once more to Thee, 

Breathe, bathe myself once more in Thee, commune with Thee, 

Report myself once more to Thee. 

Thou knowest my years entire, my life. 

My long and crowded life of active work, not adoration merely ; 

Thou knowest the prayers and vigils of my youth. 

Thou knowest my manhood's solemn and visionary meditations. 

Thou knowest how before I commenced I devoted all to come to 

Thou knowest I have in age ratified all those vows and strictly 

kept them. 
Thou knowest I have not once lost nor faith nor ecstasy in Thee, 

324 Leaves of Grass, 

In shackles, prisoned, in disgrace, repining not, 
Accepting all from Thee, as duly come from Thee. 

All my emprises have been fiird with Thee, 

My speculations, plans, begun and carried on in thoughts of Thee, 

Sailing the deep or journeying the land for Thee ; 

Intentions, purports, aspirations mine, leaving results to Thee. 

I am sure they really came from Thee, 
The urge, the ardor, the unconquerable will, 

The potent, felt, interior command, stronger than words, 

A message from the Heavens whispering to me even in sleep, 

These sped me on. 

By me and these the work so far accomplished. 

By me earth's elder cloy'd and stifled lands uncloy'd, unloosed, 

By me the hemispheres rounded and tied, the unknown to the known. 

The end I know not, it is all in Thee, 

Or small or great I know not — haply what broad fields, what lands, 
Haply the brutish measureless human undergrowth I know. 
Transplanted there may rise to stature, knowledge worthy Thee, 
Haply the swords I know may there indeed be turn'd to reaping- 

Haply the lifeless cross I know, Europe's dead cross, may bud and 

blossom there. 

One effort more, my altar this bleak sand ; 

That Thou O God my life hast Hghted, 

With ray of light, steady, ineffable, vouchsafed of Thee, 

Light rare untellable, hghting the very light, 

Beyond all signs, descriptions, languages ; 

For that O God, be it my latest word, here on my knees, 

Old, poor, and paralyzed, I thank Thee. 

My terminus near. 

The clouds already closing in upon me. 

The voyage balk'd, the course disputed, lost, 

1 yield my ships to Thee. 

My hands, my limbs grow nerveless. 

My brain feels rack'd, bewildered. 

Let the old timbers part, I will not part, 

I will cling fast to Thee, O God, though the waves buffet me, 

Thee, Thee at least I know. 

The Sleepers. 325 

Is it the prophet^s thought I speak, or am I raving? 
What do I know of life ? what of myself ? 
I know not even my own work past or present, 
Dim ever-shifting guesses of it spread before me, 
Of newer better worlds, their mighty parturition, 
Mocking, perplexing me. 

And these things I see suddenly, what mean they ? 
As if some miracle, some hand divine unseal'd my eyes, 
Shadowy vast shapes smile through the air and sky. 
And on the distant waves sail countless ships. 
And anthems in new tongues I hear saluting me. 


I WANDER all night in my vision. 

Stepping with light feet, swiftly and noiselessly stepping and 

Bending with open eyes over the shut eyes of sleepers. 

Wandering and confused, lost to myself, ill-assorted, contradic- 

Pausing, gazing, bending, and stopping. 

How solemn they look there, stretched and still, 

How quiet they breathe, the little children in their cradles. 

The wretched features of ennuyes, the white features of corpses, 
the livid faces of drunkards, the sick-gray faces of onanists. 

The gash'd bodies on battle-fields, the insane in their strong-door'd 
rooms, the sacred idiots, the new-born emerging from 
gates, and the dying emerging from gates. 

The night pervades them and infolds them. 

The married couple sleep calmly in their bed, he with his palm on 
the hip of the wife, and she with her palm on the hip of 
the husband. 

The sisters sleep lovingly side by side in their bed, 

The men sleep lovingly side by side in theirs, 

And the mother sleeps with her little child carefully wrapt. 

3^6 Leaves of Grass. 

The blind sleep, and the deaf and dumb sleep, 
The prisoner sleeps well in the prison, the runaway son sleeps, 
The murderer that is to be hung next day, how does he sleep ? 
And the murder'd person, how does he sleep ? 

The female that loves unrequited sleeps. 

And the male that loves unrequited sleeps. 

The head of the money-maker that plotted all day sleeps, 

And the enraged and treacherous dispositions, all, all sleep. 

I stand in the dark with drooping eyes by the worst-suffering and 

the most restless, 
I pass my hands soothingly to and fro a few inches from them, 
The restless sink in their beds, they fitfully sleep. 

Now I pierce the darkness, new beings appear. 
The earth recedes from me into the night, 

I saw that it was beautiful, and I see that what is not the earth is 

I go from bedside to bedside, I sleep close with the other sleepers 

each in turn, 
I dream in my dream all the dreams of the other dreamers, 
And I become the other dreamers. 

I am a dance — play up there ! the fit is whirling me fast ! 

I am the ever-laughing — it is new moon and twilight, 

I see the hiding of douceurs, I see nimble ghosts whichever way 

I look. 
Cache and cache again deep in the ground and sea, and where it 

is neither ground nor sea. 

Well do they do their jobs those journeymen divine. 

Only from me can they hide nothing, and would not if they could, 

I reckon I am their boss and they make me a pet besides. 

And surround me and lead me and run ahead when I walk, 

To lift their cunning covers to signify me with stretch'd arms, and 

resume the way ; 
Onward we move, a gay gang of blackguards ! with mirth-shouting 

music and wild-flapping pennants of joy ! 

I am the actor, the actress, the voter, the politician, 
The emigrant and the exile, the criminal that stood in the box. 
He who has been famous and he who shall be famous after to-day, 
The stammerer, the well-form'd person, the wasted or feeble 

The Sleepers. 327 

I am she who adorn'd herself and folded her hair expectantly, 
My truant lover has come, and it is dark. 

Double yourself and receive me darkness, 

Receive me and my lover too, he will not let me go without 

I roll myself upon you as upon a bed, I resign myself to the dusk. 

He whom I call answers me and takes the place of my lover. 
He rises with me silently from the bed. 

Darkness, you are gentler than my lover, his flesh was sweaty and 

I feel the hot moisture yet that he left me. 

My hands are spread forth, I pass them in all directions, 

I would sound up the shadowy shore to which you are journeying. 

Be careful darkness ! already what was it touch'd me? 

I thought my lover had gone, else darkness and he are one, 

I hear the heart-beat, I follow, I fade away. 

I descend my western course, my sinews are flaccid. 
Perfume and youth course through me and I am their wake. 

It is my face yellow and wrinkled instead of the old woman's, 
I sit low in a straw-bottom chair and carefully darn my grandson's 

It is I too, the sleepless widow looking out on the winter mid- 
I see the sparkles of starshine on the icy and pallid earth. 

A shroud I see and I am the shroud, I wrap a body and lie in the 

It is dark here under ground, it is not evil or pain here, it is blank 

here, for reasons. 

(It seems to me that every thing in the light and air ought to be 

Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave let him know he 

has enough.) 

328 Leaves of Grass, 


I see a beautiful gigantic swimmer swimming naked through the 
eddies of the sea, 

His brown hair hes close and even to his head, he strikes out with 
courageous arms, he urges himself with his legs, 

I see his white body, I see his undaunted eyes, 

I hate the swift-running eddies that would dash him head-fore- 
most on the rocks. 

What are you doing you ruffianly red-trickled waves ? 
Will you kill the courageous giant ? will you kill him in the prime 
of his middle age? 

Steady and long he struggles, 

He is baffled, bang'd, bruis'd, he holds out while his strength holds 

The slapping eddies are spotted with his blood, they bear him 

away, they roll him, swing him, turn him. 
His beautiful body is borne in the circling eddies, it is continually 

bruis'd on rocks. 
Swiftly and out of sight is borne the brave corpse. 


I turn but do not extricate myself. 

Confused, a past-reading, another, but with darkness yet. 

The beach is cut by the razory ice-wind, the wreck-guns sound, 
The tempest lulls, the moon comes floundering through the drifts. 

I look where the ship helplessly heads end on, I hear the burst as 
she strikes, I hear the howls of dismay, they grow fainter 
and fainter. 

I cannot aid with my wringing fingers, 

I can but rush to the surf and let it drench me and freeze 
upon me. 

I search with the crowd, not one of the company is washed to us 

In the morning I help pick up the dead and lay them in rows in 

a barn. 

Now of the older war-days, the defeat at Brooklyn, 
Washington stands inside the lines, he stands on the intrenched 

hills amid a crowd of officers, 

The Sleepers, 329 

His face is cold and damp, he cannot repress the weeping drops, 
He lifts the glass perpetually to his eyes, the color is blanch'd from 

his cheeks, 
He sees the slaughter of the southern braves confided to him by 

their parents. 

The same at last and at last when peace is declared, 

He stands in the room of the old tavern, the well-belov'd soldiers 

all pass through, 
The officers speechless and slow draw near in their turns, 
The chief encircles their necks with his arm and kisses them on 

the cheek. 
He kisses lightly the wet cheeks one after another, he shakes 
hands and bids good-by to the army. 

Now what my mother told me one day as we sat at dinner 

Of when she was a nearly grown girl living home with her parents 

on the old homestead. 

A red squaw came one breakfast-time to the old homestead. 

On her back she carried a bundle of rushes for rush-bottoming 

Her hair, straight, shiny, coarse, black, profuse, half-envelop'd her 

Her step was free and elastic, and her voice sounded exquisitely 

as she spoke. 

My mother look'd in delight and amazement at the stranger, 

She look'd at the freshness of her tall-borne face and full and 

pHant limbs. 
The more she look'd upon her she loved her. 
Never before had she seen such wonderful beauty and purity. 
She made her sit on a bench by the jamb of the fireplace, she 

cook'd food for her, 
She had no work to give her, but she gave her remembrance and 


The red squaw staid all the forenoon, and toward the middle of 

the afternoon she went away, 
O my mother was loth to have her go away. 
All the week she thought of her, she watched for her many a 

She remember'd her many a winter and many a summer, 
But the red squaw never came nor was heard of there again. 

330 Leaves of Grass, 

A show of the summer softness — a contact of something unseen 

— an amour of the hght and air, 
I am jealous and overwhehu'd with friendUness, 
And will go gallivant with the light and air myself. 

love and summer, you are in the dreams and in me, 

Autumn and winter are in the dreams, the farmer goes with his 

The droves and crops increase, the barns are well-fili'd. 

Elements merge in the night, ships make tacks in the dreams, 

The sailor sails, the exile returns home, 

The fugitive returns unharm'd, the immigrant is back beyond 
months and years. 

The poor Irishman lives in the simple house of his childhood 
with the well-known neighbors and faces. 

They warmly welcome him, he is barefoot again, he forgets he is 
well off. 

The Dutchman voyages home, and the Scotchman and Welshman 
voyage home, and the native of the Mediterranean voy- 
ages home. 

To every port of England, France, Spain, enter well-hird ships, 

The Swiss foots it toward his hills, the Prussian goes his way, the 
Hungarian his way, and the Pole his way. 

The Swede returns, and the Dane and Norwegian return. 

The homeward bound and the outward bound. 

The beautiful lost swimmer, the ennuye, the onanist, the female 
that loves unrequited, the money-maker. 

The actor and actress, those through with their parts and those 
waiting to commence. 

The affectionate boy, the husband and wife, the voter, the nominee 
that is chosen and the nominee that has fail'd. 

The great already known and the great any time after to-day, 

The stammerer, the sick, the perfect-form'd, the homely, 

The criminal that stood in the box, the judge that sat and sen- 
tenced him, the fluent lawyers, the jury, the audience. 

The laugher and weeper, the dancer, the midnight widow, the red 

The consumptive, the erysipahte, the idiot, he that is wrong'd. 

The antipodes, and every one between this and them in the dark, 

1 swear they are averaged now — one is no better than the other, 
The night and sleep have Hken'd them and restored them. 

The Sleepers. 33 1 

I swear they are all beautiful, 

Every one that sleeps is beautiful, every thing in the dim light is 

The wildest and bloodiest is over, and all is peace. 

Peace is always beautiful. 

The myth of heaven indicates peace and night. 

The myth of heaven indicates the soul. 

The soul is always beautiful, it appears more or it appears less, it 

comes or it lags behind. 
It comes from its embower'd garden and looks pleasantly on 

itself and encloses the world, 
Perfect and clean the genitals previously jetting, and perfect and 

clean the womb cohering. 
The head well-grown proportion'd and plumb, and the bowels and 

joints proportion'd and plumb. 

The soul is always beautiful. 

The universe is duly in order, every thing is in its place. 

What has arrived is in its place and what waits shall be in its place, 

The twisted skull waits, the watery or rotten blood waits, 

The child of the glutton or venerealee waits long, and the child 

of the drunkard waits long, and the drunkard himself waits 

The sleepers that lived and died wait, the far advanced are to go 

on in their turns, and the far behind are to come on in 

their turns. 
The diverse shall be no less diverse, but they shall flow and unite 

— they unite now. 

The sleepers are very beautiful as they lie unclothed. 

They flow hand in hand over the whole earth from east to west as 
they lie unclothed. 

The Asiatic and African are hand in hand, the European and 
American are hand in hand, 

Learn'd and unlearn'd are hand in hand, and male and female are 
hand in hand. 

The bare arm of the girl crosses the bare breast of her lover, they 
press close without lust, his lips press her neck, 

The father holds his grown or ungrown son in his arms with meas- 
ureless love, and the son holds the father in his arms with 
measureless love, 

332 Leaves of Grass, 

The white hair of the mother shines on the white wrist of the 

The breath of the boy goes with the breath of the man, friend is 

inarm 'd by friend, 
The scholar kisses the teacher and the teacher kisses the scholar, 

the wrong'd is made right. 
The call of the slave is one with the master's call, and the master 

salutes the slave. 
The felon steps forth from the prison, the insane becomes sane, 

the suffering of sick persons is reliev'd. 
The sweatings and fevers stop, the throat that was unsound is 

sound, the lungs of the consumptive are resumed, the poor 

distress'd head is free. 
The joints of the rheumatic move as smoothly as ever, and 

smoother than ever, 
Stiflings and passages open, the paralyzed become supple, 
The swell'd and convuls'd and congested awake to themselves in 

They pass the invigoration of the night and the chemistry of the 

night, and awake. 

I too pass from the night, 

I stay a while away O night, but I return to you again and love you. 

Why should I be afraid to trust myself to you ? 

I am not afraid, I have been well brought forward by you, 

I love the rich running day, but I do not desert her in whom I lay 

so long, 
I know not how I came of you and I know not where I go with 

you, but I know I came well and shall go well. 

I will stop only a time with the night, and rise betimes, 

I will duly pass the day O my mother, and duly return to you. 


Let the reformers descend from the stands where they are forever 
bawling — let an idiot or insane person appear on each of 
the stands ; 

Let judges and criminals be transposed — let the prison-keepers be 
put in prison — let those that were prisoners take the keys ; 

Let them that distrust birth and death lead the rest. 

To Think of Time, 333 


To think of time — of all that retrospection, 

To think of to-day, and the ages continued henceforward. 

Have you guess'd you yourself would not continue ? 

Have you dreaded these earth-beetles ? 

Have you fear'd the future would be nothing to you ? 

Is to-day nothing? is the beginningless past nothing? 
If the future is nothing they are just as surely nothing. 

To think that the sun rose in the east — that men and women 

were flexible, real, alive — that every thing was alive, 
To think that you and I did not see, feel, think, nor bear our part, 
To think that we are now here and bear our part. 

Not a day passes, not a minute or second without an accouche- 
Not a day passes, not a minute or second without a corpse. 

The dull nights go over and the dull days also. 

The soreness of lying so much in bed goes over. 

The physician after long putting off gives the silent and terrible 

look for an answer, 
The children come hurried and weeping, and the brothers and 

sisters are sent for. 
Medicines stand unused on the shelf, (the camphor-smell has long 

pervaded the rooms,) 
The faithful hand of the living does not desert the hand of the 

The twitching lips press lightly on the forehead of the dying. 
The breath ceases and the pulse of the heart ceases. 
The corpse stretches on the bed and the living look upon it, 
It is palpable as the living are palpable. 

The living look upon the corpse with their eyesight. 
But without eyesight lingers a different living and looks curiously 
on the corpse. 


To think the thought of death merged in the thought of materials. 
To think of all these wonders of city and country, and others taking 
great interest in them, and we taking no interest in them. 

334 * Leaves of Grass. 

To think how eager we are in building our houses, 

To think others shall be just as eager, and we quite indifferent. 

(I see one building the house that serves him a few years, or 

seventy or eiglity years at most, 
I see one building the house that serves him longer than that.) 

Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole earth — they 

never cease — they are the burial lines, 
He that was President was buried, and he that is now President 

shall surely be buried. 

A reminiscence of the vulgar fate, 
A frequent sample of the life and death of workmen, 
Each after his kind. 

Cold dash of waves at the ferry-wharf, posh and ice in the river, 

half-frozen mud in the streets, 
A gray discouraged sky overhead, the short last daylight of 

A hearse and stages, the funeral of an old Broadway stage-driver, 

the cortege mostly drivers. 

Steady the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the death-bell. 

The gate is pass'd, the new-dug grave is halted at, the living alight, 

the hearse uncloses. 
The coffin is pass'd out, lower'd and settled, the whip is laid on 

the coffin, the earth is swiftly shovel'd in. 
The mound above is flatted with the spades — silence, 
A minute — no one moves or speaks — it is done, 
He is decently put away — is there any thing more ? 

He was a good fellow, free-mouth'd, quick-temper'd, not bad- 

Ready with life or death for a friend, fond of women, gambled, 
ate hearty, drank hearty. 

Had known what it was to be flush, grew low-spirited toward the 
last, sicken'd, was help'd by a contribution, 

Died, aged forty-one years — and that was his funeral. 

Thumb extended, finger uplifted, apron, cape, gloves, strap, wet- 
weather clothes, whip carefully chosen. 

Boss, spotter, starter, hostler, somebody loafing on you, you loafing 
on somebody, headway, man before and man behind, 

Good day's work, bad day's work, pet stock, mean stock, first out, 
last out, turning-in at night, 

To Think of Time. 335 

To think that these are so much and so nigh to other drivers, and 
he there takes no interest in them. 

The markets, the government, the working-man^s wages, to think 

what account they are through our nights and days, 
To think that other working-men will make just as great account 

of them, yet we make httle or no account. 

The vulgar and the refined, what you call sin and what you call 

goodness, to think how wide a difference. 
To think the diiference will still continue to others, yet we lie 

beyond the difference. 

To think how much pleasure there is. 

Do you enjoy yourself in the city? or engaged in business? or 

planning a nomination and election ? or with your wife and 

family ? 
Or with your mother and sisters ? or in womanly housework ? or 

the beautiful maternal cares ? 
These also flow onward to others, you and I flow onward. 
But in due time you and I shall take less interest in them. 

Your farm, profits, crops — to think how engross'd you are, 
To think there will still be farms, profits, crops, yet for you of 
what avail? 


What will be will be well, for what is is well, 

To take interest is well, and not to take interest shall be well. 

The domestic joys, the daily housework or business, the building 

of houses, are not phantasms, they have weight, form, 

Farms, profits, crops, markets, wages, government, are none of 

them phantasms. 
The difference between sin and goodness is no delusion. 
The earth is not an echo, man and his life and all the things of 

his life are well-consider'd. 

You are not thrown to the winds, you gather certainly and safely 

around yourself. 
Yourself ! yourself ! yourself, for ever and ever ! 

It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your mother and 
father, it is to identify you, 

33^ Leaves of Grass. 

It is not that you should be " undecided, but that you should be 

Something long preparing and formless is arrived and form'd in you, 
You are henceforth secure, whatever comes or goes. 

The threads that were spun are gather'd, the weft crosses the warp, 
the pattern is systematic. 

The preparations have every one been justified, 
The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instruments, the baton 
has given the signal. 

The guest that was coming, he waited long, he is now housed, 
He is one of those who are beautiful and happy, he is one of those 
that to look upon and be with is enough. 

The law of the past cannot be eluded, 
The law of the present and future cannot be eluded, 
The law of the living cannot be eluded, it is eternal. 
The law of promotion and transformation cannot be eluded, 
The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be eluded. 
The law of drunkards, informers, mean persons, not one iota 
thereof can be eluded. 

Slow moving and black lines go ceaselessly over the earth. 
Northerner goes carried and Southerner goes carried, and they on 

the Atlantic side and they on the Pacific, 
And they between, and all through the Mississippi country, and 

all'^over the earth. 

The great masters and kosmos are well as they go, the heroes and 

good-doers are well. 
The known leaders and inventors and the rich owners and pious 

and distinguish'd may be well. 
But there is more account than that, there is strict account of 


The interminable hordes of the ignorant and wicked are not 

The barbarians of Africa and Asia are not nothing. 
The perpetual successions of shallow people are not nothing as 

they go. 

Of and in all these things, 

I have dream'd that we are not to be changed so much, nor the 
law of us changed, 

To Think of Time. 337 

I have dream'd that heroes and good-doers shall be under the 

present and past law, 
And that murderers, drunkards, liars, shall be under the present 

and past law. 
For I have dream'd that the law they are under now is enough. 

And I have dream'd that the purpose and essence of the known 

life, the transient. 
Is to form and decide identity for the unknown life, the permanent. 

If all came but to ashes of dung, 

If maggots and rats ended us, then Alarum ! for we are betray'd, 

Then indeed suspicion of death. 

Do you suspect death? if I were to suspect death I should die 

Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward 

annihilation ? 

Pleasantly and well-suited I walk. 

Whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is good, 

The whole universe indicates that it is good. 

The past and the present indicate that it is good. 

How beautiful and perfect are the animals ! 

How perfect the earth, and the minutest thing upon it ! 

What is called good is perfect, and what is called bad is just as 

The vegetables and minerals are all perfect, and the imponderable 

fluids perfect ; 
Slowly and surely they have pass'd on to this, and slowly and surely 

they yet pass on. 

I swear I think now that every thing without exception has an 

eternal soul ! 
The trees have, rooted in the ground ! the weeds of the sea have ! 

the animals ! 

I swear I think there is nothing but immortality ! 

That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it, 

and the cohering is for it ! 
And all preparation is for it — and identity is for it — and life and 

materials are altogether for it ! 

33 8 Leaves of Grass. 



Barest thou now O soul, 

Walk out with me toward the unknown region, 

Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow? 

No map there, nor guide. 

Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand, 

Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land. 

I know it not O soul. 

Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us. 

All waits undreamed of in that region, that inaccessible land. 

Till when the ties loosen. 

All but the ties eternal. Time and Space, 

Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us. 

Then we burst forth, we float. 
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them. 
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy ! O fruit of all !) them to fulfil O 


Whispers of heavenly death murmur'd I hear, 
Labial gossip of night, sibilant chorals. 

Footsteps gently ascending, mystical breezes wafted soft and low. 
Ripples of unseen rivers, tides of a current flowing, forever flowing, 
(Or is it the plashing of tears? the measureless waters of human 
tears ?) 

I see, just see skyward, great cloud-masses. 
Mournfully slowly they roll, silently swelling and mixing, 
With at times a half-dimm'd sadden'd far-off star, 
Appearing and disappearing. 

(Some parturition rather, some solemn immortal birth ; 
On the frontiers to eyes impenetrable, 
Some soul is passing over.) 

Whispers of Heavenly Death, 339 


Chanting the square deific, out of the One advancing, out of the 

Out of the old and new, out of the square entirely divine, 
SoHd, four-sided, (all the sides needed,) from this side Jehovah 

am I, 
Old Brahm I, and I Saturnius am ; 
Not Time affects me — I am Time, old, modern as any. 
Unpersuadable, relentless, executing righteous judgments. 
As the Earth, the Father, the brown old Kronos, with laws. 
Aged beyond computation, yet ever n^w, ever with those mighty 

laws rolling, 
Relentless I forgive no man — whoever sins dies — I will have 

that man's life ; 
Therefore let none expect mercy — have the seasons, gravitation, 

the appointed days, mercy? no more have I, 
But as the seasons and gravitation, and as all the appointed days 

that forgive not, 
I dispense from this side judgments inexorable without the least 


Consolator most mild, the promised one advancing. 

With gentle hand extended, the mightier God am I, 

Foretold by prophets and poets in their most rapt prophecies and 

From this side, lo ! the Lord Christ gazes — lo ! Hermes I — lo ! 

mine is Hercules' face. 
All sorrow, labor, suffering, I, tallying it, absorb in myself, 
Many times have I been rejected, taunted, put in prison, and 

crucified, and many times shall be again. 
All the world have I given up for my dear brothers' and sisters' 

sake, for the soul's sake. 
Wending my way through the homes of men, rich or poor, with 

the kiss of affection. 
For I am affection, I am the cheer-bringing God, with hope and 

all-enclosing charity. 
With indulgent words as to children, with fresh and sane words, 

mine only. 
Young and strong I pass knowing well I am destin'd myself to ^n 

early death ; 
But my charity has no death — my wisdom dies not, neither ea^ly 

nor late, 
And my sweet love bequeath'd here and elsewhere never dies. 

340 Leaves of Grass, 


Aloof, dissatisfied, plotting revolt. 

Comrade of criminals, brother of slaves, 

Crafty, despised, a drudge, ignorant. 

With sudra face and worn brow, black, but in the depths of my 

heart, proud as any. 
Lifted now and always against whoever scorning assumes to rule me. 
Morose, full of guile, full of reminiscences, brooding, with many 

(Though it was thought I was bafded and dispel'd, and my wiles 

done, but that will never be,) 
Defiant, I, Satan, still live, still utter words, in new lands duly 

appearing, (and old ones also,) 
Permanent here from my side, warlike, equal with any, real as any, 
Nor time nor change shall ever change me or my words. 

Santa Spirita, breather, life, 
Beyond the light, lighter than light. 

Beyond the flames of hell, joyous, leaping easily above hell, 
Beyond Paradise, perfumed solely with mine own perfume. 
Including all Hfe on earth, touching, including God, including 

Saviour and Satan, 
Ethereal, pervading all, (for without me what were all ? what were 

Essence of forms, life of the real identities, permanent, positive, 

(namely the unseen,) 
Life of the great round world, the sun and stars, and of man, 

I, the general soul. 
Here the square finishing, the solid, I the most solid, 
Breathe my breath also through these songs. 


Of him I love day and night I dream'd I heard he was dead. 
And I dream'd I went where they had buried him I love, but he 

was not in that place. 
And I dream'd I wander'd searching among burial-places to find 

And I found that every place was a burial-place ; 
The houses full of life were equally full of death, (this house is 

The streets, the shipping, the places of amusement, the Chicago, 

Boston, Philadelphia, the Mannahatta, were as full of the 

dead as of the living, 

Whispers of Heavenly Death, 341 

And fuller, O vastly fuller of the dead than of the living ; 

And what I dream'd I will henceforth tell to every person and age, 

And I stand henceforth bound to what I dream'd, 

And now I am willing to disregard burial-places and dispense 
with them, 

And if the memorials of the dead were put up indifferently every- 
where, even in the room where I eat or sleep, I should be 

And if the corpse of any one I love, or if my own corpse, be 
duly rendered to powder and pour'd in the sea, I shall be 

Or if it be distributed to the winds I shall be satisfied. 


Yet, yet, ye downcast hours, I know ye also. 

Weights of lead, how ye clog and cling at my ankles. 

Earth to a chamber of mourning turns — I hear the o'erweening, 

mocking voice, 
Matter is conqueror — matter^ triumphant only, continues 07iward. 

Despairing cries float ceaselessly toward me. 

The call of my nearest lover, putting forth, alarm'd, uncertain, 

The sea I am quickly to sail, come tell me, 

Come tell me where I am speeding, tell me my destination, 

I understand your anguish, but I cannot help you, 

I approach, hear, behold, the sad mouth, the look out of the eyes, 

your mute inquiry. 
Whither I go from the bed I recline on, come tell me ; 
Old age, alarm'd, uncertain — a young woman's voice, appealing 

to me for comfort ; 
A young man's voice, Shall I not escape ? 


As if a phantom caress'd me, 

I thought I was not alone walking here by the shore ; 

But the one I thought was with me as now I walk by the shore, 

the one I loved that caress'd me. 
As I lean and look through the ghmmering light, that one has 

utterly disappear'd. 
And those appear that are hateful to me and mock me. 

342 Leaves of Grass. 


I NEED no assurances, I am a man who is pre- occupied of his 
own soul ; 

I do not doubt that from under the feet and beside the hands and 
face I am cognizant of, are now looking faces I am not 
cognizant of, calm and actual faces, 

I do not doubt but the majesty and beauty of the world are latent 
in any iota of the world, 

I do not doubt I am limitless, and that the universes are limitless, 
in vain I try to think how limitless, 

I do not doubt that the orbs and the systems of orbs play their 
swift sports through the air on purpose, and that I shall one 
day be eligible to do as much as they, and more than they, 

I do not doubt that temporary affairs keep on and on miUions of 

I do not doubt interiors have their interiors, and exteriors have 
their exteriors, and that the eyesight has another eyesight, 
and the hearing another hearing, and the voice another 

I do not doubt that the passionately-wept deaths of young men 
are provided for, and that the deaths of young women and 
the deaths of little children are provided for, 

(Did you think Life was so well provided for, and Death, the pur- 
port of all Life, is not well provided for?) 

I do not doubt that wrecks at sea, no matter what the horrors of 
them, no matter whose wife, child, husband, father, lover, 
has gone down, are provided for, to the minutest points, 

I do not doubt that whatever can possibly happen anywhere at 
any time, is provided for in the inherences of things, 

I do not think Life provides for all and for Time and Space, but I 
believe Heavenly Death provides for all. 


Quicksand years that whirl me I know not whither, 

Your schemes, politics, fail, lines give way, substances mock and 

elude me. 
Only the theme I sing, the great and strong-possess'd soul, eludes 

One's-self must never give way — that is the final substance — 

that out of all is sure. 
Out of politics, triumphs, battles, life, what at last finally remains? 
When shows break up what but One's-Self is sure ? 

Whispers of Heavenly Death, 343 


That music always round me, unceasing, unbeginning, yet long 

untaught I did not hear, 
But now the chorus I hear and am elated, 
A tenor, strong, ascending with power and health, with glad notes 

of daybreak I hear, 
A soprano at intervals sailing buoyantly over the tops of immense 

A transparent base shuddering lusciously under and through the 

The triumphant tutti, the funeral wailings with sweet flutes and 

violins, all these I fill myself with, 
I hear not the volumes of sound merely, I am moved by the 

exquisite meanings, 
I listen to the different voices winding in and out, striving, contend- 
ing with fiery vehemence to excel each other in emotion ; 
I do not think the performers know themselves — but now I think 

I begin to know them. 


What ship puzzled at sea, cons for the true reckoning? 

Or coming in, to avoid the bars and follow the channel a perfect 

pilot needs? 
Here, sailor ! here, ship 1 take aboard the most perfect pilot. 
Whom, in a little boat, putting off and rowing, I hailing you offer. 


A NOISELESS patient spider, 

I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated, 

Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding, 

It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself, 

Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them. 

And you O my soul where you stand. 

Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space, 

Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to 

connect them, 
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor 

Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere^ O my soul.- 

344 Leaves of Grass. 


O LIVING always, always dying ! 

O the burials of me past and present, 

O me while I stride ahead, material, visible, imperious as ever ; 

O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not, I am 

content ;) 
O to disengage myself from those corpses of me, which I turn 

and look at where I cast them. 
To pass on, (O living ! always living !) and leave the corpses 



From all the rest I single out you, having a message for you, 
You are to die — let others tell you what they please, I cannot 

I am exact and merciless, but I love you — there is no escape for 


Softly I lay my right hand upon you, you just feel it, 
I do not argue, I bend my head close and half envelop it, 
I sit quietly by, I remain faithful, 
I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbor, 
I absolve you from all except yourself spiritual bodily, that is eter- 
nal, you yourself will surely escape. 
The corpse you will leave will be but excrementitious. 

The sun bursts through in unlooked-for directions, 

Strong thoughts fill you and confidence, you smile, 

You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick. 

You do not see the medicines, you do not mind the weeping 

friends, I am with you, 
I exclude others from you, there is nothing to be commiserated, 
I do not commiserate, I congratulate you. 


Night on the prairies. 

The supper is over, the fire on the ground burns low, 
The wearied emigrants sleep, wrapt in their blankets ; 
I walk by myself — I stand and look at the stars, which I think now 
I never realized before. 

Whispers of Heavenly Death. 345 

Now I absorb immortality and peace, 
I admire death and test propositions. 

How plenteous ! how spiritual I how resum^ ! 
The same old man and soul — the same old aspirations, and the 
same content. 

I was thinking the day most splendid till I saw what the not-day 

I was thinking this globe enough till there sprang out so noiseless 

around me myriads of other globes. 

Now while the great thoughts of space and eternity fill me I will 

measure myself by them. 
And now touch'd with the lives of other globes arrived as far 

along as those of the earth, 
Or waiting to arrive, or pass'd on farther than those of the earth, 
I henceforth no more ignore them than I ignore my own life, 
Or the lives of the earth arrived as far as mine, or waiting to arrive. 

I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me, as the day cannot, 

1 see that I am to wait for w^hat will be exhibited by death. 


As I sit with others at a great feast, suddenly while the music is 

To my mind, (whence it comes I know not,) spectral in mist of 

a wreck at sea. 
Of certain ships, how they sail from port with flying streamers and 

wafted kisses, and that is the last of them, 
Of the solemn and murky mystery about the fate of the President, 
Of the flower of the marine science of fifty generations founder 'd 

off the Northeast coast and going down — of the steamship 

Arctic going down, 
Of the veil'd tableau — women gathered together on deck, pale, 

heroic, waiting the moment that draws so close — O the 

moment ! 
A huge sob — a few bubbles — the white foam spirting up — and 

then the women gone. 
Sinking there while the passionless wet flows on — and I now 

pondering, Are those women indeed gone ? 
Are souls drown'd and destroy'd so? 
Is only matter triumphant? 

34^ Leaves of Grass, 


At the last, tenderly, 

From the walls of the powerful fortress'd house, 
From the clasp of the knitted locks, from the keep of the well- 
closed doors. 
Let me be wafted. 

I^et me glide noiselessly forth ; 

With the key of softness unlock the locks — with a whisper, X' 

Set ope the doors O soul. \)^' 

Tenderly — be not impatient, ^ j 

(Strong is your hold O mortal flesh, \^ 

Strong is your hold O love.) \ 


As I watch'd the ploughman ploughing, 

Or the sower sowing in the fields, or the harvester harvesting, 

I saw there too, O life and death, your analogies ; 

(Life, hfe is the tillage, and Death is the harvest according.) 


Pensive and faltering, 

The words the Dead I write, 

For living are the Dead, 

(Haply the only living, only real, 

And I the apparition, I the spectre.) 


Thou Mother with thy equal brood, 

Thou varied chain of different States, yet one identity only, 
A special song before I go Fd sing o'er all the rest, 
For thee, the future. 

Thou Mother with thy Equal Brood, 347 

I'd sow a seed for thee of endless Nationality, 
I'd fashion thy ensemble including body and soul, 
I'd show away ahead thy real Union, and how it may be accom- 

The paths to the house I seek to make, 
But leave to those to come the house itself. 

Belief I sing, and preparation ; 

As Life and Nature are not great with reference to the present 

But greater still from what is yet to come, 
Out of that formula for thee I sing. 

As a strong bird on pinions free. 
Joyous, the amplest spaces heavenward cleaving, 
Such be the thought I'd think of thee America, 
Such be the recitative I'd bring for thee. 

The conceits of the poets of other lands Td bring thee not, 

Nor the compliments that have served their turn so long, 

Nor rhyme, nor the classics, nor perfume of foreign court or 

indoor library ; 
But an odor I'd bring as from forests of pine in Maine, or breath 

of an Illinois prairie, 
With open airs of Virginia or Georgia or Tennessee, or from Texas 

uplands, or Florida's glades. 
Or the Saguenay's black stream, or the wide blue spread of 

With presentment of Yellowstone's scenes, or Yosemite, 
And murmuring under, pervading all, I'd bring the rustling sea- 
That endlessly sounds from the two Great Seas of the world. 

And for thy subtler sense subtler refrains dread Mother, 

Preludes of intellect tallying these and thee, mind-formulas fitted 

for thee, real and sane and large as these and thee. 
Thou ! mounting higher, diving deeper than we knew, thou 

transcendental Union ! 
By thee fact to be justified, blended with thought, 
Thought of man justified, blended with God, 
Through thy idea, lo, the immortal reality ! 
Through thy reaUty, lo, the immortal idea ! 

348 Leaves of Grass. 

Brain of the New World, what a task is thine, 

To formulate the Modern — out of the peerless grandeur of the 

Out of thyself, comprising science, to recast poems, churches, art, 
(Recast, may-be discard them, end them — may-be their work is 

done, who knows?) 
By vision, hand, conception, on the background of the mighty 

past, the dead. 
To limn with absolute faith the mighty living present. 

And yet thou living present brain, heir of the dead, the Old 

World brain. 
Thou that lay folded like an unborn babe within its folds so long, 
Thou carefully prepared by it so long — haply thou but unfoldest 

it, only maturest it. 
It to eventuate in thee — the essence of the by-gone time contain'd 

in thee. 
Its poems, churches, arts, unwitting to themselves, destined with 

reference to thee ; 
Thou but the apples, long, long, long a-growing, 
The fruit of all the Old ripening to-day in thee. 

Sail, sail thy best, ship of Democracy, 

Of value is thy freight, 'tis not the Present only, 

The Past is also stored in thee. 

Thou boldest not the venture of thyself alone, not of the Western 

continent alone. 
Earth's resume entire floats on thy keel O ship, is steadied by thy 

With thee Time voyages in trust, the antecedent nations sink or 

swim with thee. 
With all their ancient struggles, martyrs, heroes, epics, wars, thou 

bear'st the other continents. 
Theirs, theirs as much as thine, the destination-port triumphant ; 
Steer then with good strong hand and wary eye O helmsman, thou 

earnest great companions. 
Venerable priestly Asia sails this day with thee, 
And royal feudal Europe sails with thee. 

Beautiful world of new superber birth that rises to my eyes, 
Like a limitless golden cloud filling the western sky. 

Thou Mother with thy Equal Brood. 349 

Emblem of general maternity lifted above all, 

Sacred shape of the bearer of daughters and sons, 

Out of thy teeming womb thy giant babes in ceaseless procession 

Acceding from such gestation, taking and giving continual strength 
and life. 

World of the real — world of the twain in one. 

World of the soul, born by the world of the real alone, led to 
identity, body, by it alone, 

Yet in beginning only, incalculable masses of composite precious 

By history's cycles forwarded, by every nation, language, hither 

Ready, collected here, a freer, vast, electric world, to be con- 
structed here, 

(The true New World, the world of orbic science, morals, litera- 
tures to come,) 

Thou wonder world yet undefined, unform'd, neither do I define 

How can I pierce the impenetrable blank of the future ? 

I feel thy ominous greatness evil as well as good, 

I watch thee advancing, absorbing the present, transcending the 

I see thy light lighting, and thy shadow shadowing, as if the 
entire globe, 

But I do not undertake to define thee, hardly to comprehend thee, 

I but thee name, thee prophesy, as now, 

I merely thee ejaculate ! 

Thee in thy future, 

Thee in thy only permanent life, career, thy own unloosened mind, 

thy soaring spirit. 
Thee as another equally needed sun, radiant, ablaze, swift-moving, 

fructifying all, 
Thee risen in potent cheerfulness and joy, in endless great 

Scattering for good the cloud that hung so long, that weighed so 

long upon the mind of man. 
The doubt, suspicion, dread, of gradual, certain decadence of man ; 
Thee in thy larger, saner brood of female, male — thee in thy 

athletes, moral, spiritual, South, North, West, East, 
(To thy immortal breasts, Mother of All, thy every daughter, son, 

endear 'd alike, forever equal,) 
Thee in thy own musicians, singers, artists, unborn yet, but cer- 

35^ Leaves of Grass 

Thee in thy moral wealth and civilization, (until which thy proud- 
est material civilization must remain in vain,) 

Thee in thy all-supplying, all-enclosing worship — thee in no single 
bible, saviour, merely, 

Thy saviours countless, latent within thyself, thy bibles incessant 
within thyself, equal to any, divine as any, 

(Thy soaring course thee formulating, not in thy two great wars, 
nor in thy century's visible growth, 

But far more in these leaves and chants, thy chants, great Mother !) 

Thee in an education grown of thee, in teachers, studies, students, 
born of thee, 

Thee in thy democratic fetes en-masse, thy high original festivals, 
operas, lecturers, preachers. 

Thee in thy ultimata, (the preparations only now completed, the 
edifice on sure foundations tied,) 

Thee in thy pinnacles, intellect, thought, thy topmost rational joys, 
thy love and godhke aspiration. 

In thy resplendent coming literati, thy full-lung'd orators, thy 
sacerdotal bards, kosmic savans, 

These ! these in thee, (certain to come,) to-day I prophesy. 

Land tolerating all, accepting all, not for the good alone, all good 

for thee. 
Land in the realms of God to be a realm unto thyself, 
Under the rule of God to be a rule unto thyself. 

(Lo, where arise three peerless stars. 

To be thy natal stars my country, Ensemble, Evolution, Freedom, 

Set in the sky of Law.) 

Land of unprecedented faith, God's faith, 

Thy soil, thy very subsoil, all upheav'd. 

The general inner earth so long so sedulously draped over, now 

hence for what it is boldly laid bare, 
Open'd by thee to heaven's light for benefit or bale. 

Not for success alone, 

Not to fair-sail unintermitted always. 

The storm shall dash thy face, the murk of war and worse than 
war shall cover thee all over, 

(Wert capable of war, its tug and trials ? be capable of peace, its 

For the tug and mortal strain of nations come at last in prosper- 
ous peace, not war ;) 

Thou Mother with thy Equal Brood. 

In many a smiling mask death shall approach beguiling thee, thou 

in disease shalt swelter, 
The livid cancer spread its hideous claws, clinging upon thy 

breasts, seeking to strike thee deep within. 
Consumption of the worst, moral consumption, shall rouge thy 

face with hectic, 
But thou shalt face thy fortunes, thy diseases, and surmount them 

Whatever they are to-day and whatever through time they may be, 
They each and all shall lift and pass away and cease from thee. 
While thou, Time's spirals rounding, out of thyself, thyself still 

extricating, fusing, 
Equable, natural, mystical Union thou, (the mortal with immortal 

Shalt soar toward the fulfilment of the future, the spirit of the 

body and the mind, 
The soul, its destinies. 

The soul, its destinies, the real real, 

(Purport of all these apparitions of the real ;) 

In thee America, the soul, its destinies, 

Thou globe of globes ! thou wonder nebulous I 

By many a throe of heat and cold convuls'd, (by these thyself 

Thou mental, moral orb — thou New, indeed new. Spiritual World ! 
The Present holds thee not — for such vast growth as thine, 
For such unparallel'd flight as thine, such brood as thine, 
The Future only holds thee and can hold thee. 


Two boats with nets lying off the sea-beach, quite still. 
Ten fishermen waiting — they discover a thick school of moss- 
bonkers — they drop the join'd seine-ends in the water. 
The boats separate and row off, each on its rounding course to the 

beach, enclosing the mossbonkers. 
The net is drawn in by a windlass by those who stop ashore. 
Some of the fishermen lounge in their boats, others stand ankle- 
deep in the water, pois'd on strong legs. 
The boats partly drawn up, the water slapping against them, 
Strew'd on the sand in heaps and windrow^s, well out from the 
water, the green-back'd spotted mossbonkers. 

35^ Leaves of Grass, 



Thou orb aloft full-dazzling ! thou hot October noon ! 
Flooding with sheeny light the gray beach sand, 
The sibilant near sea with vistas far and foam, 
And tawny streaks and shades and spreading blue ; 

sun of noon refulgent ! my special word to thee. 

Hear me illustrious ! 

Thy lover me, for always I have loved thee, 

Even as basking babe, then happy boy alone by some wood edge, 

thy touching-distant beams enough, 
Or man matured, or young or old, as now to thee I launch my 


(Thou canst not with thy dumbness me deceive, 

1 know before the fitting man all Nature yields. 

Though answering not in words, the skies, trees, hear his voice — 

and thou O sun. 
As for thy throes, thy perturbations, sudden breaks and shafts of 

flame gigantic, 
I understand them, I know those flames, those perturbations well.) 

Thou that with fructifying heat and light. 

O'er myriad farms, o'er lands and waters North and South, 

O'er Mississippi's endless course, o'er Texas' grassy plains, Kana- 

da's woods, 
O'er all the globe that turns its face to thee shining in space. 
Thou that impartially infoldest all, not only continents, seas. 
Thou that to grapes and weeds and little wild flowers givest so 

Shed, shed thyself on mine and me, with but a fleeting ray out of 

thy million millions, 
Strike through these chants. 

Nor only launch thy subtle dazzle and thy strength for these, 
Prepare the later afternoon of me myself — prepare my lengthen- 
ing shadows, 
Prepare my starry nights. 

From Noon to Starry Night, 353 


Sauntering the pavement or riding the country by-road, lo, such 
faces ! 

Faces of friendship, precision, caution, suavity, ideality, 

The spiritual-prescient face, the always welcome common benevo- 
lent face, 

The face of the singing of music, the grand faces of natural law- 
yers and judges broad at the back-top. 

The faces of hunters and fishers bulged at the brows, the shaved 
blanch'd faces of orthodox citizens. 

The pure, extravagant, yearning, questioning artist's face, 

The ugly face of some beautiful soul, the handsome detested or 
despised face, 

The sacred faces of infants, the illuminated face of the mother of 
many children, 

The face of an amour, the face of veneration. 

The face as of a dream, the face of an immobile rock, 

The face withdrawn of its good and bad, a castrated face, 

A wild hawk, his wings clipp'd by the clipper, 

A stallion that yielded at last to the thongs and knife of the gelder. 

Sauntering the pavement thus, or crossing the ceaseless ferry, faces 

and faces and faces, 
I see them and complain not, and am content with all. 

Do you suppose I could be pontent with all if I thought them 
their own finale ? 

This now is too lamentable a face for a man. 

Some abject louse asking leave to be, cringing for it, 

Some milk-nosed maggot blessing what lets it wrig to its hole. 

This face is a dog's snout sniffing for garbage, 
Snakes nest in that mouth, I hear the sibilant threat. 

This face is a haze more chill than the arctic sea. 
Its sleepy and wabbling icebergs crunch as they go. 

This is a face of bitter herbs, this an emetic, they need no label. 
And more of the drug-shelf, laudanum, caoutchouc, or hog's-lard. 

354 Leaves of Grass, 

This face is an epilepsy, its wordless tongue gives out the unearthly 

Its veins down the neck distend, its eyes roll till they show nothing 

but their whites, 
Its teeth grit, the palms of the hands are cut by the turn'd-in 

The man falls struggling and foaming to the ground, while he 

speculates well. 

This face is bitten by vermin and worms, 

And this is some murderer's knife with a half-pulFd scabbard. 

This face owes to the sexton his dismalest fee, 
An unceasing death-bell tolls there. 


Features of my equals would you trick me with your creas'd and 

cadaverous march? 
Well, you cannot trick me. 

I see your rounded never-erased flow, 

I see 'neath the rims of your haggard and mean disguises. 

Splay and twist as you like, poke with the tangling fores of fishes 

or rats. 
You'll be unmuzzled, you certainly will. 

I saw the face of the most smear'd and slobbering idiot they had 

at the asylum. 
And I knew for my consolation what they knew not, 
I knew of the agents that emptied and broke my brother. 
The same wait to clear the rubbish from the fallen tenement. 
And I shall look again in a score or two of ages. 
And I shall meet the real landlord perfect and unharm'd, every 

inch as good as myself. 

The Lord advances, and yet advances. 

Always the shadow in front, always the reached hand bringing up 
the laggards. 

Out of this face emerge banners and horses — O superb ! I see 

what is coming, 
I see the high pioneer-caps, see staves of runners clearing the way, 
I hear victorious drums. 

From Noon to Starry Night, 355 

This face is a life-boat, 

This is the face commanding and bearded, it asks no odds of the 

This face is flavor'd fruit ready for eating, 
This face of a healthy honest boy is the programme of all good. 

These faces bear testimony slumbering or awake. 
They show their descent from the Master himself. 

Off the word I have spoken I except not one — red, white, black, 

are all deific. 
In each house is the ovum, it comes forth after a thousand years. 

Spots or cracks at the windows do not disturb me. 
Tall and sufficient stand behind and make signs to me, 
I read the promise and patiently wait. 

This is a full-grown lily's face, 

. She speaks to the limber-hipp'd man near the garden pickets. 
Come here she blushingly cries, Come nigh to me limber-hipp'^d 

Stand at my side till I lean as high as I can npon yoii, 
Mil me with albescent honey, bend down to me, 
Rub to me with your chafing beard, rub to my breast and 


The old face of the mother of many children, 
Whist ! I am fully content. 

LuU'd and late is the smoke of the First-day morning. 
It hangs low over the rows of trees by the fences. 
It hangs thin by the sassafras and wild-cherry and cat-brier under 

I saw the rich ladies in full dress at the soiree, 
I heard what the singers were singing so long. 
Heard who sprang in crimson youth from the white froth and the 

Behold a woman ! 

She looks out from her quaker cap, her face is clearer and more 
beautiful than the sky. 

She sits in an armchair under the shaded porch of the farmhouse, 
The sun just shines on her old white head. 

35^ Leaves of Grass. 

Her ample gown is of cream-hued linen, 

Her grandsons raised the flax, and her grand- daughters spun it 
with the distaff and the wheel. 

The melodious character of the earth, 

The finish beyond which philosophy cannot go and does not wish 

to go. 
The justified mother of men. 


Hark, some wild trumpeter, some strange musician, 
Hovering unseen in air, vibrates capricious tunes to-night. 

I hear thee trumpeter, listening alert I catch thy notes, 
Now pouring, whirling like a tempest round me, 
Now low, subdued, now in the distance lost. 

Come nearer bodiless one, haply in thee resounds 

Some dead composer, haply thy pensive life 

Was fill'd with aspirations high, unform'd ideals, 

Waves, oceans musical, chaotically surging, 

That now ecstatic ghost, close to me bending, thy cornet echoing, 

Gives out to no one's ears but mine, but freely gives to mine, 
That I may thee translate. 

Blow trumpeter free and clear, I follow thee, 
While at thy liquid prelude, glad, serene. 

The fretting world, the streets, the noisy hours of day withdraw, 
A holy calm descends like dew upon me, 
I walk in cool refreshing night the walks of Paradise, 
I scent the grass, the moist air and the roses ; 
Thy song expands my numb'd imbonded spirit, thou freest, 

launchest me. 
Floating and basking upon heaven's lake. 

Blow again trumpeter ! and for my sensuous eyes, 
Bring the old pageants, show the feudal world. 

From Noon to Starry Night, 357 

What charm thy music works ! thou makest pass before me, 
Ladies and cavaliers long dead, barons are in their castle halls, the 

troubadours are singing, 
Arm'd knights go forth to redress wrongs, some in quest of the 

holy Graal ; 
I see the tournament, I see the contestants incased in heavy 

armor seated on stately champing horses, 
I hear the shouts, the sounds of blows and smiting steel ; 
I see the Crusaders' tumultuous armies — hark, how the cymbals 

Lo, where the monks walk in advance, bearing the cross on high. 

Blow again trumpeter ! and for thy theme. 

Take now the enclosing theme of all, the solvent and the setting, 
Love, that is pulse of all, the sustenance and the pang. 
The heart of man and woman all for love, 
No other theme but love — knitting, enclosing, all-diffusing love. 

how the immortal phantoms crowd around me ! 

1 see the vast alembic ever working, I see and know the flames 

that heat the world. 
The glow, the blush, the beating hearts of lovers. 
So blissful happy some, and some so silent, dark, and nigh to 

death ; 
Love, that is all the earth to lovers — love, that mocks time and 

Love, that is day and night — love, that is sun and moon and stars. 
Love, that is crimson, sumptuous, sick with perfume. 
No other words but words of love, no other thought but love. 

Blow again trumpeter — conjure war's alarums. 

Swift to thy spell a shuddering hum like distant thunder rolls, 
Lo, where the arm'd men hasten — lo, mid the clouds of dust the 

glint of bayonets, 
I see the grime-faced cannoneers, I mark the rosy flash amid the 

smoke, I hear the cracking of the guns ; 
Nor war alone — thy fearful music-song, wild player, brings every 

sight of fear. 
The deeds of ruthless brigands, rapine, murder — I hear the cries 

for help ! 
I see ships foundering at sea, I behold on deck and below deck 

the terrible tableaus. 

3S"8 Leaves of Grass, 

trumpeter, methinks I am myself the instrument thou playest, 
Thou melt'st my heart, my brain — thou movest, drawest, chan- 

gest them at will ; 
And now thy sullen notes send darkness through me, 
Thou takest away all cheering light, all hope, 

1 see the enslaved, the overthrown, the hurt, the opprest of the 

whole earth, 
I feel the measureless shame and humihation of my race, it 

becomes all mine. 
Mine too the revenges of humanity, the wrongs of ages, baffled 

feuds and hatreds. 
Utter defeat upon me weighs — all lost — the foe victorious, 
(Yet 'mid the ruins Pride colossal stands unshaken to the last, 
Endurance, resolution to the last.) 

Now trumpeter for thy close. 

Vouchsafe a higher strain than any yet. 

Sing to my soul, renew its languishing faith and hope. 

Rouse up my slow belief, give me some vision of the future, 

Give me for once its prophecy and joy. 

O glad, exulting, culminating song ! 

A vigor more than earth's is in thy notes, 

Marches of victory — man disenthral'd — the conqueror at last, 

Hymns to the universal God from universal man — all joy ! 

A reborn race appears — a perfect world, all joy ! 

Women and men in wisdom innocence and health — all joy ! 

Riotous laughing bacchanals fill'd with joy ! 

War, sorrow, suffering gone — the rank earth purged — nothing 

but joy left ! 
The ocean fill'd with joy — the atmosphere all joy ! 
Joy ! joy ! in freedom, worship, love ! joy in the ecstasy of life ! 
Enough to merely be ! enough to breathe ! 
Joy ! joy ! all over joy ! 


Thee for my recitative. 

Thee in the driving storm even as now, the snow, the winter-day 

Thee in thy panoply, thy measur'd dual throbbing and thy beat 


From Noon to Starry Alight, 359 

Thy black cylindric body, golden brass and silvery steel, 

Thy ponderous side-bars, parallel and connecting rods, gyrating, 

shuttling at thy sides. 
Thy metrical, now swelling pant and roar, now tapering in the 

Thy great protruding head-light iix'd in front, 
Thy long, pale, floating vapor-pennants, tinged with delicate 

The dense and murky clouds out-belching from thy smoke-stack, 
Thy knitted frame, thy springs and valves, the tremulous twinkle 

of thy wheels. 
Thy train of cars behind, obedient, merrily following, 
Through gale or calm, now swift, now slack, yet steadily careering ; 
Type of the modern — emblem of motion and power — pulse of 

the continent. 
For once come serve the Muse and merge in verse, even as here 

I see thee. 
With storm and buffeting gusts of wind and falling snow, 
By day thy warning ringing bell to sound its notes, 
By night thy silent signal lamps to swing. 

Fierce-throated beauty ! 

Roll through my chant with all thy lawless music, thy swinging 
lamps at night, 

Thy madly-whistled laughter, echoing, rumbling like an earth- 
quake, rousing all. 

Law of thyself complete, thine own track firmly holding, 

(No sweetness debonair of tearful harp or glib piano thine,) 

Thy trills of shrieks by rocks and hills return'd. 

Launched o'er the prairies wide, across the lakes, 

To the free skies unpent and glad and strong. 


O magnet-South ! O glistening perfumed South ! my South ! 

O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse and love ! good and evil ! O 

all dear to me ! 
O dear to me my birth-things — all moving things and the trees 

where I was born — the grains, plants, rivers. 
Dear to me my own slow sluggish rivers where they flow, distant, 

over flats of silvery sands or through swamps. 
Dear to me the Roanoke, the Savannah, the Altamahaw, the 

Pedee, the Tombigbee, the Santee, the Coosa and the 


360 Leaves of Grass. 

pensive, far away wandering, I return with my soul to haunt 

their banks again. 
Again in Florida I float on transparent lakes, I float on the Okee- 
chobee, I cross the hummock-land or through pleasant 
openings or dense forests, 

1 see the parrots in the woods, I see the papaw-tree and the blos- 

soming titi ; 
Again, sailing in my coaster on deck, I coast off* Georgia, I coast 

up the Carolinas, 
I see where the live-oak is growing, I see where the yellow-pine, 

the scented bay-tree, the lemon and orange, the cypress, 

the graceful palmetto, 
I pass rude sea-headlands and enter Pamlico sound through an 

inlet, and dart my vision inland ; 
O the cotton plant ! the growing fields of rice, sugar, hemp ! 
The cactus guarded with thorns, the laurel-tree with large white 

The range afar, the richness and barrenness, the old woods 

charged with mistletoe and trailing moss. 
The piney odor and the gloom, the awful natural stillness, (here 

in these dense swamps the freebooter carries his gun, and 

the fugitive has his conceal'd hut ;) 
O the strange fascination of these half-known half-impassable 

swamps, infested by reptiles, resounding with the bellow 

of the alligator, the sad noises of the night-owl and the 

wild-cat, and the whirr of the rattlesnake. 
The mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing all the forenoon, 

singing through the moon-lit night. 
The humming-bird, the wild turkey, the raccoon, the opossum ; 
A Kentucky corn-field, the tall, graceful, long-leav'd corn, slender, 

flapping, bright green, with tassels, with beautiful ears each 

well-sheath'd in its husk ; 
O my heart ! O tender and fierce pangs, I can stand them not, I 

will depart ; 
O to be a Virginian where I grew up ! O to be a Carolinian ! 
O longings irrepressible ! O I will go back to old Tennessee and 

never wander more. 


I WAS asking for something specific and perfect for my city, 
Whereupon lo ! upsprang the aboriginal name. 

Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly, 
musical, self-sufficient, 

From Noon to Starry Night. 361 

I see that the word of my city is that word from of old, 
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays, superb, 
Rich, hemm'd thick all around with sailships and steamships, an 

island sixteen miles long, sohd-founded, 
Numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron, slender, strong, 

light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies. 
Tides swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sundown. 
The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger adjoining islands, 

the heights, the villas. 
The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the lighters, the 

ferry-boats, the black sea-steamers well-model'd, 
The down-town streets, the jobbers' houses of business, the houses 

of business of the ship-merchants and money-brokers, the 

Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week. 
The carts hauling goods, the manly race of drivers of horses, the 

brown-faced sailors. 
The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing clouds 

The winter snows, the sleigh-bells, the broken ice in the river, 

passing along up or down with the flood-tide or ebb-tide. 
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form'd, beautiful- 
faced, looking you straight in the eyes, 
Trottoirs throng'd, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the shops and 

A million people — manners free and superb — open voices — 

hospitaUty — the most courageous and friendly young men, 
City of hurried and sparkling waters ! city of spires and masts ! 
City nested in bays ! my city ! 


ME, man of slack faith so long. 
Standing aloof, denying portions so long. 

Only aware to-day of compact all-diffused truth. 

Discovering to-day there is no He or form of lie, and can be none, 

but grows as inevitably upon itself as the truth does upon 

Or as any law of the earth or any natural production of the earth 


(This is curious and may not be realized immediately, but it must 
be realized, 

1 feel in myself that I represent falsehoods equally with the rest, 
And that the universe does.) 

362 Leaves of Grass. 

Where has fail'd a perfect return indifferent of lies or the truth ? 
Is it upon the ground, or in water or fire ? or in the spirit of man ? 
or in the meat and blood ? 

Meditating among liars and retreating sternly into myself, I see 
that there are really no liars or lies after all, 

And that nothing fails its perfect return, and that what are called 
lies are perfect returns. 

And that each thing exactly represents itself and what has pre- 
ceded it. 

And that the truth includes all, and is compact just as much as 
space is compact. 

And that there is no flaw or vacuum in the amount of the truth — 
but that all is truth without exception ; 

And henceforth I will go celebrate any thing I see or am, 

And sing and laugh and deny nothing. 


That which eludes this verse and any verse. 

Unheard by sharpest ear, unform'd in clearest eye or cunningest 

Nor lore nor fame, nor happiness nor wealth. 
And yet the pulse of every heart and life throughout the world 

Which you and I and all pursuing ever ever miss, 
Open but still a secret, the real of the real, an illusion. 
Costless, vouchsafed to each, yet never man the owner. 
Which poets vainly seek to put in rhyme, historians in prose, 
Which sculptor never chisel'd yet, nor painter painted. 
Which vocalist never sung, nor orator nor actor ever utter'd, 
Invoking here and now I challenge for my song. 

Indifferently, 'mid public, private haunts, in solitude, 

Behind the mountain and the wood. 

Companion of the city's busiest streets, through the assemblage, 

It and its radiations constantly glide. 

In looks of fair unconscious babes. 

Or strangely in the coffin'd dead. 

Or show of breaking dawn or stars by night, 

As some dissolving deUcate film of dreams, 

Hiding yet lingering. 

Two little breaths of words comprising it. 

Two words, yet all from first to last comprised. in it. 

From Noon to Starry Night. 363 

How ardently for it ! 

How many ships have saiFd and sunk for it ! 

How many travelers started from their homes and ne'er returned ! 

How much of genius boldly staked and lost for it ! 

What countless stores of beauty, love, ventur'd for it ! 

How all superbest deeds since Time began are traceable to it — 

and shall be to the end ! 
How all heroic martyrdoms to it ! 

How, justified by it, the horrors, evils, battles of the earth ! 
How the bright fascinating lambent flames of it, in every age and 

land, have drawn men's eyes. 
Rich as a sunset on the Norway coast, the sky, the islands, and the 

Or midnight's silent glowing northern lights unreachable. 

Haply God's riddle it, so vague and yet so certain, 
The soul for it, and all the visible universe for it, 
And heaven at last for it. 


Who has gone farthest ? for I would go farther, 

And who has been just? for I would be the most just person of 

the earth. 
And who most cautious ? for I would be more caut^ious, 
And who has been happiest ? O I think it is I — I think no one 

was ever happier than I, 
And who has lavish'd all ? for I lavish constantly the best I have. 
And who proudest ? for I think I have reason to be the proudest 

son alive — for I am the son of the brawny and tall-topt 

And who has been bold and true ? for I would be the boldest and 

truest being of the universe, 
And who benevolent ? for I would show more benevolence than 

all the rest. 
And who has receiv'd the love of the most friends ? for I know 

what it is to receive the passionate love of many friends. 
And who possesses a perfect and enamour'd body ? for I do not 

believe any one possesses a more perfect or enamour'd 

body than mine. 
And who thinks the amplest thoughts ? for I would surround those 

And who has made hymns fit for the earth ? for I am mad with de- 
vouring ecstasy to make joyous hymns for the whole earth. 

364 Leaves of Grass. 


Ah poverties, wincings, and sulky retreats, 

Ah you foes that in conflict have overcome me, 

(For what is my hfe or any man's hfe but a conflict with foes, the 

old, the incessant war?) 
You degradations, you tussle with passions and appetites. 
You smarts from dissatisfied friendships, (ah wounds the sharpest 

of all !) 
You toil of painful and choked articulations, you meannesses, 
You shallow tongue-talks at tables, (my tongue the shallowest of 

any ;) 
You broken resolutions, you racking angers, you smother'd ennuis ! 
Ah think not you finally triumph, my real self has yet to come 

It shall yet march forth o'ermastering, till all lies beneath me, 
It shall yet stand up the soldier of ultimate victory. 


Of public opinion, 

Of a calm and cool fiat sooner or later, (how impassive ! how 
certain and final !) 

Of the President with pale face asking secretly to himself. What 
will the people say at last? 

Of the frivolous Judge — of the corrupt Congressman, Governor, 
Mayor — of such as these standing helpless and exposed. 

Of the mumbhng and screaming priest, (soon, soon deserted,) 

Of the lessening year by year of venerableness, and of the dicta 
of officers, statutes, pulpits, schools, 

Of the rising forever taller and stronger and broader of the intui- 
tions of men and women, and of Self-esteem and Per- 
sonality ; 

Of the true New World — of the Democracies resplendent en- 

Of the conformity of politics, armies, navies, to them. 

Of the shining sun by them — of the inherent light, greater than 
the rest, 

Of the envelopment of all by them, and the effusion of all from 


They shall arise in the States, 

They shall report Nature, laws, physiology, and happiness, 

They shall illustrate Democracy and the kosmos, 

From Noon to Starry Night, 365 | 

They shall be alimentive, amative, perceptive, 

They shall be complete women and men, their pose brawny and 

supple, their drink water, their blood clean and clear, 
They shall fully enjoy materialism and the sight of products, they 

shall enjoy the sight of the beef, lumber, bread-stuffs, of 

Chicago the great city. 
They shall train themselves to go in public to become orators and 

Strong and sweet shall their tongues be, poems and materials of 

poems shall come from their lives, they shall be makers 

and finders. 
Of them and of their works shall emerge divine conveyers, to 

convey gospels. 
Characters, events, retrospections, shall be convey'd in gospels, 

trees, animals, w^aters, shall be convey'd, 
Death, the future, the invisible faith, shall all be convey'd. 


Weave in, weave in, my hardy life. 

Weave yet a soldier strong and full for great campaigns to come. 

Weave in red blood, weave sinews in hke ropes, the senses, sight 

weave in. 
Weave lasting sure, weave day and night the weft, the warp, 

incessant weave, tire not, 
(We know not what the use O Hfe, nor know the aim, the end, 

nor really aught we know. 
But know the work, the need goes on and shall go on, the death- 

envelop'd march of peace as well as war goes on,) 
For great campaigns of peace the same the wiry threads to weave, 
We know not why or what, yet weave, forever weave. 

SPAIN, 1873-74. 

Out of the murk of heaviest clouds. 

Out of the feudal wrecks and heap'd-up skeletons of kings. 

Out of that old entire European debris, the shatter'd mummeries, 

Ruin'd cathedrals, crumble of palaces, tombs of priests, 

Lo, Freedom's features fresh undimm'd look forth — the same 

immortal face looks forth ; 
(A glimpse as of thy Mother's face Columbia, 
A flash significant as of a sword, 
Beaming towards thee.) 

366 Leaves of Grass, 

Nor think we forget thee maternal ; 

Lag^d'st thou so long? shall the clouds close again upon thee? 
Ah, but thou hast thyself now appear'd to us — we know thee, 
Thou hast given us a sure proof, the glimpse of thyself. 
Thou waitest there as everywhere thy time. 


By broad Potomac's shore, again old tongue, 

(Still uttering, still ejaculating, canst never cease this babble?) 

Again old heart so gay, again to you, your sense, the full flush 

spring returning, 
Again the freshness and the odors, again Virginia's summer sky, 

pellucid blue and silver. 
Again the forenoon purple of the hills. 
Again the deathless grass, so noiseless soft and green, 
Again the blood-red roses blooming. 

Perfume this book of mine O blood-red roses ! 

Lave subtly with your waters every line Potomac ! 

Give me of you O spring, before I close, to put between its 

pages ! 
O forenoon purple of the hills, before I close, of you ! 
O deathless grass, of you ! 


June 25, 1876. 

From far Dakota's canons. 

Lands of the wild ravine, the dusky Sioux, the lonesome stretch, 

the silence, 
Haply to-day a mournful wail, haply a trumpet-note for heroes. 

The battle-bulletin, 

The Indian ambuscade, the craft, the fatal environment, 

The cavalry companies fighting to the last in sternest heroism. 

In the midst of their little circle, with their slaughter'd horses for 

The fall of Custer and all his officers and men. 

Continues yet the old, old legend of our race, 
The loftiest of hfe upheld by death. 
The ancient banner perfectly maintain'd, 
O lesson opportune, O how I welcome thee ! 

From Nook to Starry Night, 367 

As sitting in dark days, 

Lone, sulky, through the time's thick murk looking in vain for lights 

for hope, 
From unsuspected parts a fierce and momentary proof, 
(The sun there at the centre though conceal'd. 
Electric life forever at the centre,) 
Breaks forth a lightning flash. 

Thou of the tawny flowing hair in battle, 

I erewhile saw, with erect head, pressing ever in front, bearing a 

bright sword in thy hand. 
Now ending well in death the splendid fever of thy deeds, 
(I bring no dirge for it or thee, I bring a glad triumphal sonnet,) 
Desperate and glorious, aye in defeat most desperate, most glorious. 
After thy many battles in which never yielding up a gun or a color, 
Leaving behind thee a memory sweet to soldiers. 
Thou yieldest up thyself. 


In midnight sleep of many a face of anguish. 

Of the look at first of the mortally wounded, (of that indescribable 

Of the dead on their backs with arms extended wide, 
I dream, I dream, I dream. 

Of scenes of Nature, fields and mountains, 

Of skies so beauteous after a storm, and at night the moon so 

unearthly bright, 
Shining sweetly, shining down, where we dig the trenches and 

gather the heaps, 

I dream, I dream, I dream. 

Long have they pass'd, faces and trenches and fields. 

Where through the carnage I moved with a callous composure, 

or away from the fallen. 
Onward I sped at the time — but now of their forms at night, 
I dream, I dream, I dream. 


Thick-sprinkled bunting ! flag of stars ! 

Long yet your road, fateful flag — long yet your road, and lined 
with bloody death, 

368 Leaves of Grass, 

For the prize I see at issue at last is the world, 

All its ships and shores I see interwoven with your threads greedy 

banner ; 
Dream'd again the flags of kings, highest borne, to flaunt unrival'd? 

hasten flag of man — O with sure and steady step, passing 

highest flags of kings. 
Walk supreme to the heavens mighty symbol — run up above 

them all. 
Flag of stars ! thick-sprinkled bunting ! 


To U. S. G. return' d from his World's Tour. 

What best I see in thee. 

Is not that where thou mov'st down history's great highways, 

Ever undimm'd by time shoots warlike victory's dazzle. 

Or that thou sat'st where Washington sat, ruling the land in peace, 

Or thou the man whom feudal Europe feted, venerable Asia 

swarm'd upon, 
Who walk'd with kings with even pace the round world's prome- 
nade ; 
But that in foreign lands, in all thy walks with kings, 
Those prairie sovereigns of the West, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, 
Ohio's, Indiana's millions, comrades, farmers, soldiers, all to the 

Invisibly with thee walking with kings with even pace the round 

world's jDromenade, 
Were all so justified. 


Written in Platte Canon^ Colorado, 

Spirit that form'd this scene, 

These tumbled rock-piles grim and red. 

These reckless heaven-ambitious peaks. 

These gorges, turbulent-clear streams, this naked freshness. 

These formless wild arrays, for reasons of their own, 

1 know thee, savage spirit — we have communed together, 
Mine too such wild arrays, for reasons of their own ; 
Was't charged against my chants they had forgotten art? 
To fuse within themselves its rules precise and delicatesse ? 
The lyrist's measur'd beat, the wrought-out temple's grace — 

column and polish'd arch forgot? 
But thou that revelest here — spirit that form'd this scene, 
They have remember'd thee. 

From Noon to Starry Night. 369 


As I walk these broad majestic days of peace, 

(For the war, the struggle of blood finish'd, wherein, O terrific 

Against vast odds erewhile having gloriously w^on. 
Now thou stridest on, yet perhaps in time toward denser wars, 
Perhaps to engage in time in still more dreadful contests, dangers, 
Longer campaigns and crises, labors beyond all others,) 
Around me I hear that eclat of the world, politics, produce, 
The announcements of recognized things, science. 
The approved growth of cities and the spread of inventions. 

I see the ships, (they will last a few years,) 

The vast factories with their foremen and workmen. 

And hear the indorsement of all, and do not object to it. 

But I too announce solid things. 

Science, ships, politics, cities, factories, are not nothing. 

Like a grand ' procession to music of distant bugles pouring, 

triumphantly moving, and grander heaving in sight, 
They stand for realities — all is as it should be. 

Then my reahties ; 

What else is so real as mine ? 

Libertad and the divine average, freedom to every slave on the 
face of the earth, 

The rapt promises and lumine of seers, the spiritual w^orld, these 
centuries-lasting songs. 

And our visions, the visions of poets, the most solid announce- 
ments of any. 


This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless, 

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done, 

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes 

thou lovest best. 
Night, sleep, death and the stars. 

37^ Leaves of Grass. 



As the time draws nigh glooming a cloud, 

A dread beyond of I know not what darkens me. 

I shall go forth, 

I shall traverse the States awhile, but I cannot tell whither or how 

Perhaps soon some day or night while I am singing my voice will 

suddenly cease. 

O book, O chants ! must all then amount to but this ? 

Must we barely arrive at this beginning of us? — and yet it is 

enough, O soul ; 
O soul, we have positively appear'd — that is enough. 


Years of the modern ! years of the unperformed ! 

Your horizon rises, I see it parting away for more august dramas, 

I see not America only, not only Liberty's nation but other nations 

I see tremendous entrances and exits, new combinations, the soli- 
darity of races, 

I see that force advancing with irresistible power on the world's 

(Have the old forces, the old wars, played their parts? are the 
acts suitable to them closed?) 

I see Freedom, completely arm'd and victorious and very haughty, 
with Law on one side and Peace on the other, 

A stupendous trio all issuing forth against the idea of caste ; 

What historic denouements are these we so rapidly approach ? 

I see men marching and countermarching by swift millions, 

I see the frontiers and boundaries of the old aristocracies broken, 

I see the landmarks of European kings removed, 

I see this day the People beginning their landmarks, (all others 
give way ;) 

Never were such sharp questions ask'd as this day. 

Never was average man, his soul, more energetic, more like a God, 

Songs of Parting. 371 

Lo, how he urges and urges, leaving the masses no rest ! 

His daring foot is on land and sea everywhere, he colonizes the 

Pacific, the archipelagoes, 
With the steamship, the electric telegraph, the newspaper, the 

wholesale engines of war. 
With these and the world-spreading factories he interlinks all 

geography, all lands ; ^ 
What whispers are these O lands, running ahead of you, passing 

under the seas? 
Are all nations communing ? is there going to be but one heart to 

the globe ? 
Is humanity forming en-masse? for lo, tyrants tremble, crowns 

grow dim. 
The earth, restive, confronts a new era, perhaps a general divine war. 
No one knows what will happen next, such portents fill the days 

and nights ; 
Years prophetical ! the space ahead as I walk, as I vainly try to 

pierce it, is full of phantoms. 
Unborn deeds, things soon to be, project their shapes around me. 
This incredible rush and heat, this strange ecstatic fever of dreams 

O years ! 
Your dreams O years, how they penetrate through me ! (I know 

not whether I sleep or wake ;) 
The perform'd America and Europe grow dim, retiring in shadow 

behind me, 
The unperformed, more gigantic than ever, advance, advance upon 



Ashes of soldiers South or North, 
As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought, 
The war resumes, again to my sense your shapes, 
And again the advance of the armies. 

Noiseless as mists and vapors, 

From their graves in the trenches ascending. 

From cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee, 

From every point of the compass out of the countless graves. 

In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or threes or 

single ones they come, 
And silently gather round me. 

Now sound no note O trumpeters, 

Not at the head of my cavalry parading on spirited horses, 

372 Leaves of Grass. 

With sabres drawn and glistening, and carbines by their thighs, (ah 

my brave horsemen ! 
My handsome tan-faced horsemen ! what Hfe, what joy and pride, 
With all the perils were yours.) 

Nor you drummers, neither at reveille at dawn. 

Nor the long roll alarming the camu, nor even the muffled beat 

for a burial, 
Nothing from you this time O drummers bearing my warlike drums. 

But aside from these and the marts of wealth and the crowded 

Admitting around me comrades close unseen by the rest and 

The slain elate and alive again, the dust and debris alive, 
I chant this chant of my silent soul in the name of all dead 


Faces so pale with wondrous eyes, very dear, gather closer yet, 
Draw close, but speak not. 

Phantoms of countless lost, 

Invisible to the rest henceforth become my companions, 

Follow me ever — desert me not while I live. 

Sweet are the blooming cheeks of the living — sweet are the musi- 
cal voices sounding, 
But sweet, ah sweet, are the dead with their silent eyes. 

Dearest comrades, all is over and long gone, 

But love is not over — and what love, O comrades ! 

Perfume from battle-fields rising, up from the foetor arising. 

Perfume therefore my chant, O love, immortal love. 
Give me to bathe the memories of all dead soldiers. 
Shroud them, embalm them, cover them all over with tender pride. 

Perfume all — make all wholesome. 

Make these ashes to nourish and blossom, 

O love, solve all, fructify all with the last chemistry. 

Give me exhaustless, make me a fountain, .. 

That I exhale love from me wherever I go like a moist perennial 

For the ashes of all dead soldiers South or North. 

SoJVGS OF Parting, 373 


Of these years I sing, 

How they pass and have pass'd through convuls'd pains, as through 

How America illustrates birth, muscular youth, the promise, the 

sure fulfilment, the absolute success, despite of people — 

illustrates evil as well as good. 
The vehement struggle so fierce for unity in one's-self ; 
How many hold despairingly yet to the models departed, caste, 

myths, obedience, compulsion, and to infidelity, 
How few see the arrived models, the athletes, the Western States, 

or see freedom or spirituality, or hold any faith in results, 
(But I see the athletes, and I see the results of the war glorious 

and inevitable, and they again leading to other results.) 

How the great cities appear — how the Democratic masses, turbu- 
lent, wilful, as I love them. 

How the whirl, the contest, the wrestle of evil with good, the 
sounding and resounding, keep on and on. 

How society waits unform'd, and is for a while between things 
ended and things begun. 

How America is the continent of glories, and of the triumph of 
freedom and of the Democracies, and of the fruits of so- 
ciety, and of all that is begun. 

And how the States are complete in themselves — and how all 
triumphs and glories are complete in themselves, to lead 

And how these of mine and of the States will in their turn be con- 
vuls'd, and serve other parturitions and transitions, 

And how all people, sights, combinations, the democratic masses 
too, serve — and how every fact, and war itself, with all its 
horrors, serves. 

And how now or at any time each serves the exquisite transition 
of death. 

Of seeds dropping into the ground, of births, 

Of the steady concentration of America, inland, upward, to im- 
pregnable and swarming places. 

Of what Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, and the rest, are to be, 

Of what a few years will show there in Nebraska, Colorado, 
Nevada, and the rest, 

(Or afar, mounting the Northern Pacific to Sitka or Aliaska,) 

374 Leaves of Grass, 

Of what the feuillage of America is the preparation for — and of 

what all sights, North, South, East and West, are. 
Of this Union welded in blood, of the solemn price paid, of the 

unnamed lost ever present in my mind ; 
Of the temporary use of materials for identity's sake, 
Of the present, passing, departing — of the growth of completer 

men than any yet, 
Of all sloping down there where the fresh free giver the mother, 

the Mississippi flows, 
Of mighty inland cities yet unsurvey'd and unsuspected. 
Of the new and good names, of the modern developments, of 

inalienable homesteads. 
Of a free and original life there, of simple diet and clean and 

sweet blood. 
Of htheness, majestic faces, clear eyes, and perfect physique there, 
Of immense spiritual results future years far West, each side of the 

Of these songs, well understood there, (being made for that area,) 
Of the native scorn of grossness and gain there, 
(O it lurks in me night and day — what is gain after all to savage- 

ness and freedom ?) 


Splendor of ended day floating and filling me. 
Hour prophetic, hour resuming the past, 
Inflating my throat, you divine average. 
You earth and life till the last ray gleams I sing. 

Open mouth of my soul uttering gladness, 
Eyes of my soul seeing perfection, 
Natural life of me faithfully praising things. 
Corroborating forever the triumph of things. 

Illustrious every one ! 

Illustrious what we name space, sphere of unnumber'd spirits, 

Illustrious the mystery of motion in all beings, even the tiniest 

Illustrious the attribute of speech, the senses, the body, 
Illustrious the passing light — illustrious the pale reflection on the 

new moon in the western sky. 
Illustrious whatever I see or hear or touch, to the last. 

Good in all. 

In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals, 

Songs of Parting. 375 

In the annual return of the seasons, 

In the hilarity of youth, 

In the strength and flush of manhood, 

In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age, 

In the superb vistas of death. 

Wonderful to depart ! 
Wonderful to be here ! 

The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood ! 
To breathe the air, how delicious ! 
To speak — to walk — to seize something by the hand ! 
To prepare for sleep, for bed, to look on my rose-color'd flesh ! 
To be conscious of my body, so satisfied, so large ! 
To be this incredible God I am ! 

To have gone forth among other Gods, these men and women I 

Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself ! _ 

How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around ! 

How the clouds pass silently overhead ! 

How the earth darts on and on ! and how the sun, moon, stars, 

dart on and on ! 
How the water sports and sings ! (surely it is alive !) 
How the trees rise and stand up, with strong trunks, with branches 

and leaves ! 
(Surely there is something more in each of the trees, some living 


O amazement of things — even the least particle ! 
O spirituaHty of things ! 

strain musical flowing through ages and continents, now reaching 

me and America ! 

1 take your strong chords, intersperse them, and cheerfully pass 

them forward. 

I too carol the sun, usher'd or at noon, or as now, setting, 

I too throb to the brain and beauty of the earth and of all the 

growths of the earth, 
I too have felt the resistless call of myself. 

As I steam'd down the Mississippi, 
As I wandered over the prairies, 

As I have lived, as I have looked through my windows my eyes, 
As I went forth in the morning, as I beheld the light breaking in 
the east. 

Sy6 Leaves of Grass. 

As I bathed on the beach of the Eastern Sea, and again on the 

beach of the Western Sea, 
As I roam'd the streets of inland Chicago, whatever streets I have 

Or cities or silent woods, or even amid the sights of war, 
Wherever I have been I have charged myself with contentment 

and triumph. 

I sing to the last the equalities modern or old, 
I sing the endless finales of things, 
I say Nature continues, glory continues, 
I praise with electric voice. 

For I do not see one imperfection in the universe, 
And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last in the 

setting sun ! though the time has come, 

1 still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated adoration. 


As at thy portals also death. 

Entering thy sovereign, dim, illimitable grounds, 

To memories of my mother, to the divine blending, maternity, 

To her, buried and gone, yet buried not, gone not from me, 

(I see again the calm benignant face fresh and beautiful still, 

I sit by the form in the coffin, 

I kiss and kiss convulsively again the sweet old lips, the cheeks, 

the closed eyes in the coffin ;) 
To her, the ideal woman, practical, spiritual, of all of earth, life, 

love, to me the best, 
I grave a monumental line, before I go, amid these songs. 
And set a tombstone here. 


The business man the acquirer vast, 

After assiduous years surveying results, preparing for departure, 

Devises houses and lands to his children, bequeaths stocks, goods, 

funds for a school or hospital, 
Leaves money to certain companions to buy tokens, souvenirs of 

gems and gold. 

But I, my life surveying, closing, 

SoNCS OF Parting. 2)77 

With nothing to show to devise from its idle years, 

Nor houses nor lands, nor tokens of gems or gold for my friends, 

Yet certain remembrances of the war for you, and after you, 

And little souvenirs of camps and soldiers, with my love, 

I bind together and bequeath in this bundle of songs. 


Pensfve on her dead gazing I heard the Mother of All, 
Desperate on the torn bodies, on the forms covering the battle- 
fields gazing, 
(As the last gun ceased, but the scent of the powder-smoke 

As she call'd to her earth with mournful voice while she stalk'd. 
Absorb them well O my earth, she cried, I charge you lose not 

my sons, lose not an atom. 
And you streams absorb them well, taking their dear blood, 
And you local spots, and you airs that swim above hghtly 

And all you essences of soil and growth, and you my rivers' depths. 
And you mountain sides, and the woods where my dear children's 

blood trickling redden'd. 
And you trees down in your roots to bequeath to all future trees, 
My dead absorb or South or North — my young men's bodies 

absorb, and their precious precious blood, 
Which holding in trust for me faithfully back again give me many 

a year hence. 
In unseen essence and odor of surface and grass, centuries hence. 
In blowing airs from the fields back again give me my darlings, 

give my immortal heroes, 
Exhale me them centuries hence, breathe me their breath, let not 

an atom be lost, 
O years and graves ! O air and soil ! O my dead, an aroma sweet ! 
Exhale them perennial sweet death, years, centuries hence. 


Not alone those camps of white, old comrades of the wars, 
When as order'd forward, after a long march. 

Footsore and weary, soon as the light lessens we halt for the night, 
Some of us so fatigued carrying the gun and knapsack, droppmg 

asleep in our tracks. 
Others pitching the little tents, and the fires lit up begin to 


3/8 Leaves of Grass. 

Outposts of pickets posted surrounding alert through the dark, 

And a word provided for countersign, careful for safety, 

Till to the call of the drummers at daybreak loudly beating the 

We rise up refresh'd, the night and sleep pass'd over, and resume 

our journey. 
Or proceed to battle. 

Lo, the camps of the tents of green. 

Which the days of peace keep filling, and the days of war keep 

With a mystic army, (is it too order'd forward? is it too only halt- 
ing awhile. 

Till night and sleep pass over?) 

Now in those camps of green, in their tents dotting the world, 
In the parents, children, husbands, wives, in them, in the old and 

Sleeping under the sunlight, sleeping under the moonlight, content 

and silent there at last, 
Behold the mighty bivouac-field and waiting-camp of all. 
Of the corps and generals all, and the President over the corps 

and generals all. 
And of each of us O soldiers, and of each and all in the ranks we 

(There without hatred we all, all meet.) 

For presently O soldiers, we too camp in our place in the bivouac- 
camps of green. 

But we need not provide for outposts, nor word for the counter- 

Nor drummer to beat the morning drum. 


{Midnight y Sept. 19-20, 1881.) 

The sobbing of the bells, the sudden death-news everywhere, 

The slumberers rouse, the rapport of the People, 

(Full well they know that message in the darkness, 

Full well return, respond within their breasts, their brains, the sad 

The passionate toll and clang — city to city, joining, sounding, 

Those heart-beats of a Nation in the night. 

Songs of Parting. 379 


As they draw to a close, 

Of what underhes the precedent songs — of my aims in them, 

Of the seed I have sought to plant in them, 

Of joy, sweet joy, through many a year, in them, 

(For them, for them have I lived, in them my work is done,) 

Of many an aspiration fond, of many a dream and plan ; 

Through Space and Time fused in a chant, and the flowing eternal 

To Nature encompassing these, encompassing God — to the joy- 
ous, electric all. 

To the sense of Death, and accepting exulting in Death in its 
turn the same as life. 

The entrance of man to sing ; 

To compact you, ye parted, diverse lives, 

To put rapport the mountains and rocks and streams, 

And the winds of the north, and the forests of oak and pine, 

With you O soul. 


Joy, shipmate, joy ! 
(Pleas'd to my soul at death I cry,) 
Our Hfe is closed, our life begins. 
The long, long anchorage we leave, 
The ship is clear at last, she leaps ! 
She swiftly courses from the shore, 
Joy, shipmate, joy. 


The untold want by life and land ne'er granted, 
Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find. 


What are those of the known but to ascend and enter the 

Unknown ? 
And what are those of life but for Death? 


These carols sung to cheer my passage through the world I see, 
For completion I dedicate to the Invisible World. 

380 Leaves of Grass. 


Now finale to the shore, 

Now, land and life finale and farewell, 

Now Voyager depart, (much, much for thee is yet in store,) 

Often enough hast thou adventur'd o'er the seas, 

Cautiously cruising, studying the charts. 

Duly again to port and hawser's tie returning ; 

But now obey thy cherish'd secret wish. 

Embrace thy friends, leave all in order. 

To port and hawser's tie no more returning, 

Depart upon thy endless cruise old Sailor. 

To conclude, I announce what comes after me. 

I remember I said before my leaves sprang at all, 
I would raise my voice jocund and strong with reference to con- 

When America does what was promis'd. 

When through these States walk a hundred millions of superb 

When the rest part away for superb persons and contribute to them, 
When breeds of the most perfect mothers denote America, 
Then to me and mine our due fruition. 

I have press'd through in my own right, 

I have sung the body and the soul, war and peace have I sung, 

and the songs of life and death, 
And the songs of birth, and shown that there are many births. 

I have offer'd my style to every one, I have journey'd with confi- 
dent step ; 
While my pleasure is yet at the full I whisper So long I 
And take the young woman's hand and the young man's hand for 
the last time. 

I announce natural persons to arise, 
I announce justice triumphant, 
I-announce uncompromising liberty and equality, 
I announce the justification of candor and the justification of 

Songs of Parting. 381 

I announce that the identity of these States is a single identity 

I announce the Union more and more compact, indissoluble, 
I announce splendors and majesties to make all the previous poli- 
tics of the earth insignificant. 

I announce adhesiveness, I say it shall be hmitless, unloosen'd, 
I say you shall yet find the friend you were looking for. 

I announce a man or woman coming, perhaps you are the one, 
{So long /) 

I announce the great individual, fluid as Nature, chaste, affection- 
ate, compassionate, fully arm'd. 

I announce a Hfe that shall be copious, vehement, spiritual, bold, 
I announce an end that shall lightly and joyfully meet its transla- 

I announce myriads of youths, beautiful, gigantic, sweet-blooded, 
I announce a race of splendid and savage old men. 

O thicker and faster — {So long /) 

crowding too close upon me, 

1 foresee too much, it' means more than I thought, 
It appears to me I am dying. 

Hasten throat and sound your last. 

Salute me — salute the days once more. Peal the old cry once 

Screaming electric, the atmosphere using. 

At random glancing, each as I notice absorbing, 

Swiftly on, but a little while alighting, 

Curious envelop'd messages delivering, 

Sparkles hot, seed ethereal down in the dirt dropping. 

Myself unknowing, my commission obeying, to question it never 

To ages and ages yet the growth of the seed leaving. 

To troops out of the war arising, they the tasks I have set promul- 

To women certain whispers of myself bequeathing, their affection 
me more clearly explaining, 

To young men my problems offering — no dallier I — I the mus- 
cle of their brains trying, 

So I pass, a little time vocal, visible, contrary, 

3^2 Leaves of Grass. 

Afterward a melodious echo, passionately bent for, (death making 

me really undying,) 
The best of me then when no longer visible, for toward that I have 

been incessantly preparing. 

What is there more, that I lag and pause and crouch extended 

with unshut mouth? 
Is there a single final farewell ? 

My songs cease, I abandon them, 

From behind the screen where I hid I advance personally solely 
to you. 

Camerado, this is no book. 

Who touches this touches a man, 

(Is it night? are we here together alone?) 

It is I you hold and who holds you, 

I spring from the pages into your arms — decease calls me forth. 

how your fingers drowse me, 

Your breath falls around me like dew, your pulse lulls the tympans 
of my ears, 

1 feel immerged from head to foot, 
Delicious, enough. 

Enough O deed impromptu and secret, 

Enough O gliding present — enough O summ'd-up past. 

Dear friend whoever you are take this kiss, 

I give it especially to you, do not forget me, 

I feel like one who has done work for the day to retire awhile, 

I receive now again of my many translations, from my avataras as- 
cending, while others doubtless await me. 

An unknown sphere more real than I dreamed, more direct, darts 
awakening rays about me, So long ! 

Remember my words, I may again return, 

I love you, I depart from materials, 

I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead. 

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